Capitol’s storied halls make for memorable proposal moments

Many a Capital Hill staffer has found romance in the corridors of the Capitol, so it’s only natural that many marriages begin there, too. 

Over the years, staffers have taken advantage of the Capitol’s grandeur and stunning views to pop the big question. Several shared their stories with The Hill in honor of Valentine’s Day. 

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The tales all have something in common: a little deception, a beautiful setting, a surprised gal and a happy ending.

Guys — take notes:

Josh Holmes, the chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), told his girlfriend they would have to make a stop on their New Year’s Eve in 2011: the Senate floor for a pro forma session.

“I think most people would say, why would I want to go watch that?” said Blair Latoff Holmes, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “I am kind of a Senate nerd.”

When she entered the Senate floor, she found an empty chamber — except for Josh.

“At that point I kind of knew something wasn’t right,” she said.

He asked her to look at McConnell’s desk. Lying there was a printout of the email from her old boss introducing them.

“I turned to see Josh on one knee, asking me to marry him,” she said. 

“I paused and started crying,” she said. “I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ ”

Josh said he picked the Senate floor because he wanted something “unique.”

“I wanted it to be more representative of who we are and how we met. The problem was we met at a bar,” he joked.

But Blair was working for the late Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) at the time, so their relationship had its roots in the upper chamber.

“When I found out it was a possibility to do it on the floor, I thought ‘Wow it’s really incredible, extremely humbling and something we’d never forget,’ ” Josh said.

“I obviously had to go through all the powers that be in the Senate to see if it was even a possibility. And folks were very nice about it.”

Blair said she had no clue.

“I was surprised,” she said. “I figured it would happen at some point — we had been dating for five years — but I had no idea it would be on New Year’s Eve.”

She also gave Josh credit for playing it cool. “We made the walk from his office in the Russell Building all the way underground to the Capitol, to the Senate floor, talking about our plans for the evening — most guys, from what I understand, are very nervous and act very awkward. He didn’t.”

“Unfortunately, we could not take any pictures because that is the rule of the Senate, but the moment — we’ll always remember it.”

“It was unique and it was a special place where our marriage and courtship started,” Josh said.

The two were married on Nov. 17 in Philadelphia.

Over on the House side, another staffer used a holiday to propose to his girlfriend.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), brought Mary Kathryn Covert to the Capitol to watch the Fourth of July concert.

“Mike was acting really oddly that weekend and I thought that, ‘well is he going to propose?’ ” said Mary Kathryn, who works for FTI Consulting.

She had packed a picnic for them but noted, “neither of us were eating anything because I was so nervous and he was so nervous.”

The proposal took place on the Speaker’s balcony, which overlooks the National Mall, as the fireworks were going off.

“He just had a ring in his hand and he was shaking his head yes. And he wasn’t saying anything. And I said ‘Are you asking me to marry you?’ And he said, ‘uh huh.’ I was like ‘yes, yes, yes, yes.’ It was a big surprise. It was so sweet,” Mary Kathryn said.

Michael said of the engagement: “I talked to a bunch of friends who had done it and they all told me people come up with these really elaborate speeches and really think through what they want to say, and when you’re actually in the moment you completely forget what you were expecting to say, and I definitely proved that true.”

But his big worry of the night wasn’t whether Mary Kathryn would say yes: it was about getting the ring into the Capitol.

“For whatever reason, I was very worried about carrying the ring through the metal detector, which shouldn’t be a big deal. I mean, people wear rings through the metal detector all the time, but I was nervous,” Michael said. So he got a coworker to smuggle the ring in for him.

He said he picked the Speaker’s balcony because he has worked in the House for a number of years and both of them love history.

Mary Kathryn said it was very romantic.

“It was so neat to get engaged at the Capitol because, to me, it’s such a place of wonder,” she said.

And their engagement had a high-profile witness: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), whose hideaway office looks out on the Speaker’s balcony.

“He watched the whole thing,” Michael said. “We could see him laughing and really enjoying it.”

Their wedding was May 5, and one of their gifts from Boehner was something to help them remember their engagement.

“For our wedding present, Boehner gave us the poster from that Fourth of July concert and wrote on it ‘Good luck. John Boehner,’ ” Mary Kathryn said.

Another popular engagement site is the Dome of the Capitol. That’s where Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) daughter was proposed to shortly before he was sworn in as a senator.

His daughter, Alexis, and her fiancé, Jason Arias, met in Washington at the congressional baseball game when they were working internships in the city.

Flake was playing. His team didn’t win, but the couple, who both attended Brigham Young University, stayed together.

The family was taking a tour of the Dome on Jan. 2, when Jason popped the question. Their wedding is scheduled for May.

“The rest of us scuttled off and he proposed,” Flake said, revealing they were all in on the secret.

And he had some advice for his soon-to-be son-in-law.

“I told him you better be sure she’s gonna say yes because that’s a long walk down.”