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Despite an “all clear” from public health officials that it’s safe for Americans to gather again, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is stubbornly refusing to fully reopen the U.S. Capitol grounds.
The national mall is open. The dazzling Smithsonian museums are crowded with people. Sporting events, concerts, and our national monuments are all open and welcoming tens of thousands of visitors.
Pelosi is also limiting the number of visitors to members’ offices to five. The outdoor areas of the Capitol are also still closed to tourists. The historic west front of the Capitol, where presidents are inaugurated, will remain closed. This means that the annual tradition of a July 4th concert will be streamed instead of in-person.
Why is she doing this? Families save money for years to make a trip to our nation’s Capitol. So why isn’t the “people’s house” fully open?
That it won’t be open for this Fourth of July celebration is a travesty. The nation is coming out of a pandemic that kept us apart for more than a year. But that’s not as important as Pelosi’s desire to control every aspect of life in the Capitol.
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 claimed that proxy voting was necessary because of the pandemic. Last week, Pelosi extended the “courtesy” of proxy voting for another month. This is significant because of the near-even split between the parties in the House. With no margin for error or absences, Pelosi wants the capability of casting every single Democratic vote in the House on every single roll call.
Members miss votes all the time for a variety of reasons, but abusing the speaker’s privilege by casting a roll call vote for an absent member should be disallowed.
However, the House is currently conducting the people’s business behind closed doors.
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.
Fencing around the Capitol is supposed to come down starting July 8. Why it’s been up this long is no mystery. Nancy Pelosi wanted to make a statement about “dangerous Republicans.” That’s why she ordered metal detectors to be installed at the entrances to the floor and is slapping heavy fines on GOP members who try to evade them.
It’s all about control. And Pelosi is making sure Republicans know who’s in charge.