U.S. Capitol Reopens More Doors to Visitors Following Covid Pandemic

July 31, 2023

Capitol Hill administrators reported during Congressional testimony this past week that they had completed the reopening of more building doors that had been closed during the Covid pandemic.

Previously office building doors, access points and entrances that had been restricted from the public have reopened just as Washington DC hits its peak tourism season. 

U.S. Capitol Police did note that the reopening would add some urgency to law enforcement efforts to recruit officers to staff the building’s checkpoints. The agency further acknowledge struggling to fill a staffing shortage amid the return of crowds. The police department is roughly 110 officers short of its authorized staffing levels.

In a written report to the Senate Rules Committee, Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger wrote, “Adequately staffing a campus door requires three to four officers per shift to ensure a proper level of security.”

He added, “Long lines are not only an inconvenience to Members, staff, and for visitors, they represent a security risk that, in these increasingly volatile times, the Department must address. While big picture reforms are significant and important, staffing daily mission requirements are vital.”

Despite the police shortage, the office of the Architect of the Capitol noted to a Senate panel last week that the peak population of workers on the grounds had again reached 30,000 people, post-Covid.

Chere Rexroat took over as acting Architect after President Biden in February fired embattled Architect of the Capitol, Brett Blanton, following an inspector general report released last year found his liable for “administrative, ethical and policy violations,” including that he abused his government vehicle and misrepresented himself as a law enforcement official.

The Architect oversees the U.S. Capitol complex. He or she is responsible for the maintenance, operation, development and preservation of 16.5 million square feet of buildings and more than 450 acres of land throughout Capitol Hill.

As of June, Biden was still seeking a new permanent Architect of the Capitol to fill Blanton’s vacated position.

While the position of Architect resides at the U.S. Capitol, it is appointed by the President. 

Odds are low that any tourists will get a glimpse of their hometown lawmakers if they visit the Capitol over the next few weeks; next month Congress will be out of session on August break.

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