Heard on the Hill

Lights Out at CIA Director Confirmation Hearing

Pepco says issue was internal to Senate office buildings

Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, center, waits to be introduced by fellow Kansans Sen. Pat Roberts, left, and former Sen. Bob Dole during a power outage at his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)


Updated 2:20 p.m. | Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner had just brought up Russian hacking and the 2016 election during a high-profile Senate Intelligence Committee hearing when the lights went out.

If the scene Thursday morning in the Hart Senate Office Building didn’t exactly stoke paranoia, it at least elicited some chuckles during an otherwise dead-serious confirmation hearing for Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo to be the next director of the CIA.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas tweeted, “Lights suspiciously went off in hearing room for new CIA director, Mike [Pompeo]. Hmmm...”

Capitol workers investigating the cause of the power outage initially linked the issue to electrical work underway near the Capitol, in a message sent to Senate employees.

“Due to Pepco conducting electrical work in the surrounding neighborhood, the Hart and Dirksen Senate Office Buildings has experienced a partial electrical disruption on multiple floors,” Senate Superintendent Takis Tzamaras wrote in an email to Senate staff around 10:45 a.m. “The Senate superintendent’s office is currently investigating the cause and working to restore power.”

But in a statement to Roll Call, Pepco disputed the charge that work being done by the local electric utility was the cause of the outage.

“Pepco crews responded to reports of a power issue affecting portions of the Hart Senate Office Building this morning at 10:25 a.m. Pepco was performing scheduled maintenance when an issue was identified with the building’s internal equipment,” the statement read. “All electrical lines serving the building are intact and fully functioning.”

The hearing was moved one building over, to the adequately lit Appropriations Committee hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

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