House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.), joined by 22 committee ranking members, called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to immediately reopen the U.S. Capitol complex to the American people. For close to two years, the U.S. Capitol and congressional office buildings have been closed to the public.
“The U.S. Capitol is a shrine to the greatest republic in the history of the world, yet you continue to prevent easy access to the American people. Ordinary Americans who wish to visit the People’s House – which their tax dollars maintain – are entirely shut out and may only view the buildings from afar. This is the People’s House, but the American people are not allowed to enter,” wrote the Republican lawmakers.
Despite safe and effective vaccines, treatments, and testing widely available to the public, Speaker Pelosi is continuing her restrictive COVID-19 visitor policy. Under current operations, the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, whose sole purpose is to accommodate visitors, is closed to the public and tours are prohibited. Only Members of Congress, congressional staff, and invited, official business visitors are allowed in the Capitol and House office buildings. However, official business visitors must be pre-arranged and met by House staff at the designated entrance, present their identification, and check-in at the Appointments Desk. It is unclear what is done with visitors’ information prior to or after the visit.
“This extended closure has had real consequences on Americans’ most fundamental constitutional rights. Citizens who wish to visit the Capitol complex to exercise their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, peaceably to assemble, or to petition the Government are prohibited from readily doing so. While the Constitution strictly prohibits Congress from passing a law infringing these rights, you appear to have usurped our founding document by prohibiting exercise of these rights through an authoritarian decree,” the Republican lawmakers continued. “COVID-19 has become the pretext by which Democrats attempt to assert control over every aspect of American life. It is well past time to reopen the House of Representatives, and we urge you to open it immediately so all Americans may once again fully participate in our great democracy.”