Tuesday, December 02, 2008

New US Capitol Visitor's Center Opens

When I was in Washington last month, both the White House and the Capitol were swarming with workers building the temporary viewing stands for inauguration day in January. As a member of the US Capitol Historical Society, I've been hearing for years about the new US Capitol Visitor's Center being constructed below ground level. The facility has been needed for decades, because there's never been an adequate gathering place for tours (and I can attest from an embarrassing and unsuccessful attempt to painfully argue my way in to the Rayburn House Office Building after WAY too much coffee on a bitter cold morning, no public restrooms anywhere in the area). The Architect of the Capitol estimates the number of visitors to the building has risen from 1 million annually in 1970 to 3 million today.

Well, the new Visitor's Center opened today. Naturally, anything having to do with Congress costs nine or ten times what it it's estimated, and this is no exception. The $71 million project rose to $621 million before finally being completed. According to a press release from Citizens Against Government Waste,

Like the federal budget itself, Congress used the CVC as a warehouse for tens of millions of dollars in extravagant bells and whistles for itself. Even more reprehensible, members of Congress seeking to add special features for themselves used security concerns surrounding the September 11 attacks to justify their extravagant add-ons and constant change orders.”

Original plans called for more than half of the CVC space to be left as unfinished “shell space”, available to be outfitted for future needs. Instead, in 2001 Congress began implementing its wish list for the unfinished spaces. The House side got a two-story hearing room and the Senate grafted on a collection of small hearing rooms and a television and radio studio with adjoining makeup facilities so that senators could cut spots for their constituents back home. Those two efforts alone added $85 million to the cost of the CVC. The CVC will also have a 450-seat dining area, two orientation theaters (one for each chamber), a large auditorium, and an exhibition hall.


Not to play partisan politics here, but Senate Majority leader Harry Reid today made it clear how he feels about the taxpayers he ostensibly works for. In his remarks at the center's opening today he said,

"My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway," said Reid in his remarks. "In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it's true. Well, that is no longer going to be necessary."


Please do tell your colleagues the feeling is mutual.

1 comment:

Glenn said...

What a scumbag Harry Reid is! Completely out of touch with the American public. He needs to be fired along with (almost) all the rest of the politicians. It bothers me to no end as to why the voters put up with this.

We need to take America back!