Capitol Hill was closed to visitors on Thursday, but the District’s snow emergency didn’t keep congressional employees home from work.
Architect of the Capitol teams outfitted their fleet of blue trucks with plow attachments and worked through the night to clear snow off streets surrounding the campus. On Thursday morning, compact Bobcat snow excavators brushed the East Front, while a grounds crew shoveled the sidewalks and spread salt.
“We’ve got to be ready for the hearings that are still on,” explained an AOC supervisor, who was on the hunt for an open dining option after finishing an overnight shift. He was out of luck.
Campus eateries and coffee shops, including privately owned Cups & Co. in the Russell basement, remained closed on Thursday morning. The Capitol Visitor Center and the Library of Congress also closed shop due to the snowfall.
In the basement of the Capitol, AOC workers sporting navy snowsuits leaned on their shovels as they congregated around the vending machines, the only available options for sustenance.
Though the heavy snowfall — an estimated 8 inches by 10 a.m. — shut down the city’s bus system and taxis around Union Station were scarce, staffers still managed to report for work.
“We’re tough New Yorkers,” said a staffer for Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who was trudging through Senate Park. Schumer’s legislative director snowshoed to work, according to the senator’s Twitter account.
The snow did impede some congressional activities.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., had to bail on the House Democratic retreat, canceling plans to travel from D.C. to Cambridge, Md., to address the lawmakers. (He now plans to make the trip Friday with President Barack Obama.)
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee convened at 10 a.m. to consider some Interior Department nominations, but could not get a quorum of 12 senators to vote.
Just like the District’s Metro trains, the Capitol subway system shuttled passengers through the eerily quiet building.
One Capitol Police officer roaming the Senate Daily Press Gallery, which was unstaffed and largely empty of reporters, said Thursday morning felt “like a midnight shift.”
Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.