By Jordy Yager - 02/24/10 12:15 AM EST
President Barack Obama nominated Stephen Ayers to be the next Architect of the Capitol on Tuesday, weeks after the House moved to strip the White House of a role in the selection.
For the past three years, Ayers has served ad-interim as the acting-Architect of the Capitol (AoC), which oversees the maintenance and oversight of the majority of the Capitol campus’ infrastructure. His predecessor, Alan Hantman, stepped down after spending 10 years in the position.
The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have argued that the White House should not be involved in the selection process by nominating a candidate because the AoC’s job is solely concerned with the activities of Congress and has nothing to do with any other branch of government.
“I appreciate the trust the Congress and the Leadership has placed in me, and I thank President Obama for nominating me,” Ayers said in a statement on Tuesday. “I look forward to leading the organization as we continue to build upon our successes over the past several years.”
In an interview with The Hill last year, Ayers said that he would accept the job “in a heartbeat” if he were nominated and approved.
The office of the AoC is charged with maintaining more than 16.5 million square feet of facilities, including the expansive multi-million dollar Capitol Visitor Center (CVC), and more than 450 acres of property that fall under the Legislative Branch’s jurisdiction.
Instead of a presidential nomination, Wasserman Schultz’s proposed a selection committee that would consist of the Speaker of the House, the Senate president pro tempore, the House and Senate majority and minority members, the chairmen and the ranking members of the House Administration Committee, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the House and Senate Appropriations committees.
Wasserman Schultz’s office also did not immediately return requests for comment as to how Obama’s nomination of Ayers would affect the fate of her measure.
As the selection process stands, Ayers, like all presidential nominations, will have to go before the Senate to be approved.
In his first months in office, Ayers became the focus of outrage for many lawmakers who balked at the doubling cost of the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) and demanded that he provide a better plan of accountability for its construction. But since the CVC’s opening more than a year ago, lawmaker opinions have been relatively positive of Ayers’s job performance.
Members have advocated for the past two years that a permanent AoC is needed to properly address the growing backlog of Capitol maintenance issues, if for no other reason than it would give Ayers job security and the advantage of planning the scope of the AoC for the long-term.
Ayers has indicated to Congress that the AoC’s office has more than $600 million in deferred maintenance and more than $800 million in renewal projects, with $900 million of the total $1.4 billion being urgent or high priority.
Every month Ayers’ staff submits thousands of numbers to him for inspection, from every malfunctioning elevator on Capitol Hill to every minute of paid overtime. Ayers said he keeps track of where more attention needs to be paid and where pennies can be saved through a metrics and measures system that then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani used to transform New York City.
“Since taking over as acting architect in 2007, Stephen has demonstrated the caliber of leadership required to run such an intricate organization charged with the important responsibility of preserving and enhancing the Capitol complex for Members, staff and the millions of visitors who pass through each year,” said Lungren, the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, which oversees the functions of the House.
Ayers is licensed architect with the state of California and has been with the office of the AoC since 1997.
This story was updated at 10:30 p.m.