The doors to the Library of Congress were closed Tuesday as the government shut down.
Reduced entry points spawned long lines at House office buildings. At 9 a.m., the line to enter the Cannon House Office Building stretched down New Jersey Avenue Southeast, around the corner and up C Street Southeast. Hands holding smartphones popped above the line occasionally, as those waiting snapped photos of the scene.
Close to the door, the Cannon queue split into two separate lanes. Capitol Police waved those in the outside track with staff badges inside in large batches, creating stop-and-go flows, while the inner line of other visitors moved gradually.
“Every day this line takes me two minutes,” said one intern on a House Democrat’s staff, as he clocked 25 minutes of waiting.
Adding to the line were drivers who normally enter through the Cannon garage. No one could park there Tuesday, because the shutdown closed all House-side parking except in the Rayburn and Ford garages, plus lots 1 and 4.
Tuesday taught lobbyist Jeremy Ben-Ami an important lesson about congressional advocacy: Don’t schedule your big day for the end or beginning of the fiscal year.
“We made a never-to-be-repeated mistake,” said Ben-Ami, president of the pro-Israel, pro-peace nonprofit J Street. His goal for the day was organizing the 800 attendees of J Street’s national conference to lobby members of Congress, who were otherwise consumed in the debate about appropriations and the new health care law, which went into effect Tuesday.
Traversing the East Front of the Capitol with a colleague shortly after 1 p.m., in his suit and a lanyard announcing his official business, Ben-Ami sounded relieved to be out in the midday sun after spending much of his morning trying to find an open exit from the House office buildings he had been visiting.
The long lines to enter were not much of an inconvenience, but getting out was tough.
“You figure you would be shut out,” he said with a laugh, “but we were shut in.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.