In the wake of the July 24, 1998, shooting that took the lives of two Capitol Police officers, several lawmakers predicted Congress would enhance security by building a visitor center. But the project remained stalled for nearly a year after the attack, partly because Republicans were divided over who should have jurisdiction over the plan.
Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) issued a letter in September declaring that this "ambitious project of national importance" would fall under the domain of the House Oversight Committee, which would consult with other panels such as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. But that was not enough for Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), whose panel oversees public buildings. Shuster fired back to Gingrich and other top leaders that "the current draft of the legislation specifically mentions all House and Senate Committees having a legislative role in this project except the T&I Committee."
Now House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has made a peace, of sorts. He has assigned the project to the Capitol Preservation Commission, a group that includes the visitor center's chief sponsor, Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), as well as several key Senate and House leaders.
There's only one problem with the new arrangement, which was first reported in Roll Call: There's no member of Shuster's committee on the Capitol Preservation Commission. GOP sources said, however, that Rep. Bob Franks (R-N.J.), who chairs the panel's subcommittee on public buildings and economic development, is likely to be named to the group--which would satisfy Shuster, as long as one of his panel's Democrats makes it on as well.
VIGIL: The anniversary of the shooting of 18-year veteran Capitol Police Detective John M. Gibson and Officer Jacob J. Chestnut will not go unnoticed. Their colleagues have planned a candlelight vigil for July 23 on the East Front of the Capitol, from 8 to 9:30 p.m.
AND ME: Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.) may have discovered a hot new campaign tool: buttons featuring the dashing film idol Harrison Ford and emblazoned with the simple phrase, "Frost For Congress."
Frost supporters proudly donned the buttons at a June 22 "Texas Barbecue" fund-raiser for the lawmaker, which featured 170 pounds of BBQ imported from Railhead Smokehouse in Fort Worth and a take of $200,000. Democratic fund-raiser Mike Fraioli produced the buttons as a joke after Frost told the Dallas Morning News that Ford would be the most likely leading man to portray him in a movie, because "he and I are the same age."
Frost spokesman Tom Eisenhauer said the Ford buttons could be the beginning of a major political wave: "Hopefully this will help introduce a whole new generation of women to Texas politics."
THE WEEK AHEAD: After a weeklong recess, lawmakers and aides are girding themselves for the brutal task of working through appropriations bills. As one leadership aide put it, "It's going to be an incredibly long month."
And conservative Republican Rep. Tom Coburn (Okla.) isn't planning on making it any easier. He and his allies are hoping to cut an additional $700 million from the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government bill alone, which is slated for a committee markup Tuesday.
Coburn also has his eye on the Interior spending measure, which is set to hit the floor this week, noting that while the bill indicates $275 million for a coal research program won't be used, the text actually reveals that $65 million will be spent over the next fiscal year.
"They write all this stuff sneakily so it's not obvious what they're doing," Coburn said in an interview last week. "It's deceptive."
An appropriations aide said all the spending bills, including Interior's, fall under last year's spending levels, and changing even the smallest programs could jeopardize passage of the bills.
Coburn, who plans to send a series of personal letters to his fellow Republicans highlighting these kinds of mathematical calculations, said his colleagues should not fool themselves into thinking presidential candidate George W. Bush can protect them from voter outrage if they fail to cut spending significantly this year.
"Too many Republicans think they're going to win control of the House with George W. Bush instead of doing what they told the American people they would do," Coburn said, noting that Bush's gubernatorial win in 1998 failed to translate into significant GOP gains in the Texas state legislature. "He didn't have any coattails."