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Preparations for the two-year Capitol Dome restoration brought renewed attention to deteriorating conditions of one of the world’s most iconic structures in late 2013, perhaps inspiring a funding package that would allow those projects to continue.
Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers has repeatedly highlighted the 1,300 cracks crisscrossing the Dome’s cast-iron shell, and recently spread out more than 40 corroded metal chunks removed from the Dome for TV cameras.
With scaffolding for the $59.55 million project set to go up on the Capitol’s roof this spring, appropriators have unveiled a boost to AOC funding for fiscal 2014 that provides the $15.94 million needed for the next phase of the Dome restoration.
The $4.26 billion fiscal 2014 Legislative Branch spending bill released Monday night contains $602 million for the AOC, giving the agency a boost above 2013 enacted levels, making it unique among congressional agencies. It’s an increase of about $40 million, a level without precedent in the past five fiscal years.
“As we know, we have major renovations that need to occur here, particularly with respect to the Dome, but more generally through the structure,” said House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla. “Look, that’s a bipartisan thing. We happen to be custodian of really one of the greatest symbols of freedom in the world.”
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, “was very determined that we make sure that nothing bad happen to it on his watch, so we have strong support from leadership” Cole said. There may be a lot of division inside the Capitol, he said, “but the fate of the building brings both sides together.”
Cole also noted that “[We] put a little money back in the historic preservation fund for long-term work,” referring to the $70 million included for the Historic Buildings Trust Fund.
Though it falls short of the requested $681.7 million for fiscal 2014, as reported by the Congressional Research Service, it’s a big increase from what legislative branch appropriators were planning this summer. The House-reported bill for fiscal 2014 would have provided about $508 million, not including funding for the Senate office buildings, and the Senate-reported bill would have provided about $469 million, not including funding for House office buildings. By tradition, each chamber writes only the portions of the bill dealing with its operations, leaving conferees to work out spending differences over supporting agencies, such as the AOC, Capitol Police and the Government Accountability Office.
AOC spokeswoman Laura Condeluci said the agency would not comment on pending legislation.