The Washington Post

Supreme Court gets a fancy lift

The US Supreme Court. (PHOTO/Karen BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images) The Supreme Court. (Karen BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

In these waning days of the Great Sequester, it’s comforting that folks on the Hill can still live in the style to which they have been accustomed.

Take for example the folks at the Supreme Court, who look to be  getting a new — and quite snappy — private elevator to take the Justices and staff and guests up from the underground garage to their chambers and offices. Seems one of the elevators — No. 6 to be precise —  had been damaged in a small fire decades ago and was sorely in need of an update.

The Architect of the Capitol, which is part of the legislative branch, solicited bids for the job Dec.6,  saying it would spend between $250,000 and $500,000 for new cables and hoist ropes and the like, as well as repairs to the operating panels.

Seems a bit steep. Our condo building did something just like this for about  $175,000 per elevator.  But the court elevator’s specs seem most luxurious.

The Architect’s solicitation for bids says they want to “replace existing plastic laminate wall panels” — Plastic laminate? At the Supreme Court? — with new “solid wood wall panels and trim to match Elevator # 7.” Decorum is important at the court. So is decor.

Bidders must also replace those “plastic laminate door panels with new polished bronze door,” and get rid of those yucky ceiling panels “with a new wood ceiling.” Naturally, we’ll need “new bronze handrails, end caps and brackets ” and such and we’re going to need to replace the “wooden emergency phone door” and install a new” hands free emergency phone” linked to the phone system.

(So no need for The Clapper.)

Meanwhile, the big budget deal announced this week, if approved, could be good news for he High Court. Congressional appropriators might refrain from asking budget deal is approved, it might keep congressional appropriators from asking why it is that each Justice is still allotted four law clerks even though the number of full decisions by the Court has plummeted nearly 60 percent  in recent years from 174 in 1983 down  to 73 in 2011.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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