AoC questioned on the House expansion

Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman faced a barrage of questions yesterday from a key House Democrat about the amount of workspace the House will be allotted in the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC).

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) grilled Hantman after refusing  for the past three weeks to sign any of the AoC’s obligation plans for the House expansion in the CVC, effectively freezing any funding for any future projects.
File photo
Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.): House expansion complaints.

Obey, the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, told Hantman at a hearing, “The space that we are getting seems to be almost all show and very little work space.”

Obey added, “There is essentially one large room, which for all practical purposes is a media center, a propaganda center, it’s a place where we can all do our best to make ourselves look good. There is very little room for the public at large, this is the only large room we are going to get for the over $60 million we are spending on the House expansion.”

Obey said the space allocated for the House was misused, and declared, “I’m not going to sign any more work orders if this is what we are going to get for our money.” 

In his opening remarks, Obey cited a Government Accountability Office report that said the CVC had no integrated schedule for the mammoth project.

 “We still don’t have one as far as I know,” Obey said.

The rising costs of the Capitol Visitor Center, now expected to cost more than $500 million, dominated much of the hearing.

However, Hantman found a degree of sympathy from several members, who acknowledged he was answering to a wide array of individuals.

“Who is capable of giving you direction?” asked Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.).

Hantman explained that the Capitol Preservation Commission is comprised of 18 members, nine from the House and nine from the Senate, including members of other committees that control the House and Senate expansion spaces.

 “You have an awful lot of cooks in this stew,” Doolittle said.

“I’m here, sir, to fulfill the needs of the Congress,” Hantman replied.

“We are going to shoot the messenger if you sit there long enough,” said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.). However Lahood told Hantman that “nobody around here really believes” the CVC will be finished for the current estimate of $517 million after frequent increases in recent years.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) also expressed sympathy for the Architect’s position and praised him for the work that had been completed.

But Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) complained about the presence of fences and construction around the Capitol.

“If we look at the U.S. Capitol grounds – it’s ugly Mr. Architect—it looks like we are in a state a siege,” Moran said.

Hantman assured Moran the construction work will be completed around the Botanical Gardens and the campus area in the near future.

“As you know we’ve heard that before, but I trust you,” Moran said.