As if the partisan gridlock in Washington isn’t bad enough, the U.S. Capitol — host to most of the political acrimony — is in serious need of repair.
Officials overseeing a multi-year renovation of the Capitol estimate that it will cost at least $61 million to repair roughly 1,300 cracks in the structure’s iconic dome. Other leaks also could damage the dome’s famed fresco that looks down upon visitors to the Capitol Rotunda.
Congress previously approved roughly $20 million to pay for repairs to the base of the dome, but Democrats and Republicans are at odds over whether to provide additional money to immediately repair the cracks as part of a six-month stopgap spending measure expected to be approved by lawmakers next month.
In a letter sent Monday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to address “an urgent bit of housekeeping” by dropping objections to the funding request and permit its inclusion in the spending bill.
The “upkeep is critical for the safety of those who work and tour the Capitol building every single day,” Schumer wrote, adding that it “would be a national embarrassment” if partisan gridlock blocked the repair funds.
Schumer also noted that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the dome repair money with bipartisan support, while the House Appropriations subcommittee with similar jurisdiction omitted the funding from its spending proposals.
In response, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said, “The Speaker is confident we can work together to fix the Capitol Dome without more political posturing from Senator Schumer.” But Smith declined to say whether House Republicans would drop their objections to including the repair money in the spending bill.
The spending deal set for approval next month would keep agency spending for the first half of fiscal 2013 at a price not exceeding a $1.047 trillion limit that both parties agreed to in last summer’s debt deal. That level represents a concession by conservative lawmakers, who had hoped for deeper cuts in spending.
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