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.