More than four years after a bill was signed into law to honor an artist who has been dead for more than 130 years, lawmakers will gather this morning to posthumously give the Congressional Gold Medal to Constantino Brumidi.
But while the event is cause for celebration for the lawmakers who have championed the cause, a local activist is grumbling that it took too long to happen — and that it’s taking place under less than ideal circumstances.
Joseph Grano, a local Italian-American activist who serves as chairman of the Constantino Brumidi Society, is annoyed that the event is not scheduled to take place in the Capitol Rotunda, as is usually the case for Congressional Gold Medal ceremonies.
Instead, according to a press release sent Tuesday morning by the office of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the ceremony will occur in the Rayburn Room of the Capitol.
“I am deeply disappointed and cannot understand why the leaders of Congress ... did not schedule the Brumidi Gold Medal ceremony in the Rotunda beneath two of Brumidi’s greatest works of art,” Grano told Roll Call. “Brumidi gave his life to the Capitol building for 25 years. Congress can surely give one hour of its time for a ceremony in the Rotunda to honor his memory.”
Brumidi painted some of the most famous works of art throughout the Capitol, including “The Apotheosis of George Washington” on the Dome of the Rotunda.
To use the Rotunda for an official activity such as a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, the House and Senate have to pass a resolution authorizing it.
Senate Historian Don Ritchie said he wasn’t sure why lawmakers chose to break from the tradition, and spokesmen for leadership in both chambers wouldn’t comment.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), sponsors of the 2008 legislation to award Brumidi the medal, said they weren’t concerned about the location as long as the ceremony was taking place
“More important than the timing or location is that the award has been given and the ceremony ... is tomorrow,” Daniel Head, a spokesman for Enzi, said Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m disappointed but not offended,” Pascrell said of the decision not to hold the event in the Rotunda. “I’m not angry as long as we’re getting it done.”
Would-Be Capitol, Pentagon Bomber Pleads Guilty
Nearly 10 months after his arrest, Rezwan Ferdaus is pleading guilty to two of the six charges leveled against him for his alleged attempt to attack the Capitol and Pentagon.
As part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, the 26-year-old will admit to “attempting to destroy a federal building (the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol Building) by means of an explosive” and “attempting to provide material support to terrorists knowing and intending that it would be used in preparation for and carrying out violence.”
If convicted on both counts, the combined maximum sentence would hold Ferdaus in prison for 35 years; under the plea agreement, he would be incarcerated for 17 years.
A Massachusetts resident with a physics degree from Northeastern University, Ferdaus was arrested Sept. 28, 2011, on allegations that he planned to use a team of gunmen and remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives to attack the two buildings.
He was unknowingly part of a sting operation, the Justice Department said. Though Ferdaus believed he was collaborating directly with representatives of the terrorist organization al-Qaida, he was actually working with undercover FBI operatives who had been monitoring him since 2010.
A hearing to formally recognize the plea agreement is scheduled for July 20.