During an average year, the U.S. Capitol welcomes 2.5 million visitors, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to reopen the Capitol to visitors — school groups, families, or anyone hoping to see the legislative branch in action. To make matters worse, Pelosi’s refusal even to allow visitors on the Capitol grounds resulted in the outdoor concert regularly held on the Capitol’s west front to celebrate our nation’s independence being canceled. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responds to a question about her creation of a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, during a news conference, during a news conference to discuss a surface transportation bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Pelosi cancels the Fourth of July
Rep. Rodney Davis July 02, 12:00 AM July 02, 12:00 AM
During an average year, the U.S. Capitol welcomes 2.5 million visitors, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to reopen the Capitol to visitors — school groups, families, or anyone hoping to see the legislative branch in action. To make matters worse, Pelosi’s refusal even to allow visitors on the Capitol grounds resulted in the outdoor concert regularly held on the Capitol’s west front to celebrate our nation’s independence being canceled.
What could have been a unifying celebration of our Independence Day and defeat of COVID-19 will instead be virtual performances streamed online.
Washington, D.C., has fully reopened. Americans traveling to Washington, D.C., this summer can attend sporting events, go to concerts, take their families to the National Zoo, see monuments, and visit most Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. The U.S. Capitol should be open for tours.
Unfortunately, keeping the Capitol closed is just part of the speaker’s larger effort to exert more control over the House.
While the Capitol remains closed and visitors to members’ offices are capped at groups of five, which is less than what was allowed during the height of the pandemic, the speaker of the House has extended her proxy voting scheme — where a member of Congress can give their vote over to another member — for another month.
Since the Democrats first authorized proxy voting in May 2020, 13,757 votes have been cast by proxy — 1,075 of those occurred this past month. Yet, according to the Office of Attending Physician, 84% of members of Congress have been vaccinated. The CDC has said it’s safe for vaccinated people to travel, and Pelosi has confirmed a 100% vaccination rate for her caucus. So why is Pelosi continuing to operate the House like we’re still at the height of the pandemic?
Democrats told people last year that proxy voting was necessary because of the pandemic — because airplanes weren’t flying and it was for safety. Yet, many of those same members advocating for proxy voting flew out for an in-person hearing on policing in America after the death of George Floyd in June of 2020, while all other hearings were being held virtually. This is not about the pandemic or safety. It’s about increasing Pelosi’s control.
Pelosi’s four-vote margin gets even tighter if any of her members are absent for any reason, but if members can still vote from home or wherever they are, then any legislation she puts on the floor is safe.
The only reason Democrats’ $1.9 billion spending bill passed at the end of May was because some of their members voted by proxy. The bill passed 213-212.
At the same time, committee rooms remain closed for many members. By now, most of us are familiar with the trials and tribulations of virtual meetings, but with a group of 435 people whose average age is pushing 60, the problems are even more frequent. However, the lack of technologically savvy members is only half of the problem.
The real problem is when you have a witness that is reluctant to answer a question that the people deserve to hear, it’s difficult to extract that answer over Zoom, especially if that witness has spotty Wi-Fi. Questioning witnesses the Democrats invite to participate in hearings is one of the few opportunities Republicans in the House have to present the people with another point of view. That opportunity is limited in virtual hearings, further exerting the speaker’s control of the House and information getting to the people.
This Independence Day, we should be reminded of our responsibility to the people to run this place like our Founding Fathers intended. The Capitol should be open to the people. Americans should be able to petition their government without being limited to a group of five. And members should be required to vote in person as the Constitution requires.
The restrictions being put on the first branch of government by Democrats should worry every American, especially when these “pandemic” reforms become permanent.
Speaker Pelosi, it’s time to open the Capitol.
Rodney Davis represents Illinois’ 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves as ranking member of the Committee of House Administration, which has oversight of day-to-day operations in the House.
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