Politics

What Congress Wants to Study and ‘Explore’ About Itself

Dunkin’ Donuts, horse mounted police and leaky Cannon tunnel all will get consideration

Congress wants studies on police horses, flooding in the Cannon Tunnel, Senate child care and more. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

What to do with some basement ambience, Horse-mounted police and Dunkin’ Donuts are but a few questions appropriators want answered as they look to fund Congress and its agencies to the tune of $4.8 billion.The fiscal year 2019 appropriations conference committee report released Monday includes reporting requirements and requests for studies and explorations. Here are just a few: 

Cannon tunnel flooding and ‘ambience’

Conferees had some real talk about the tunnel that connects the Cannon House Office Building to the Capitol:“The current condition of the Cannon tunnel is that of a basement ambience,” said the report, “Furthermore the tunnel is subject to leaks which have recently caused the tunnel to be closed.”The report directs the Architect of the Capitol and the  Clerk of the House to develop a comprehensive plan to “enhance the tunnel,” including cost estimates, timeline, and renderings.

Senate staffer pay

The report requires the Secretary of the Senate to conduct a review of the salaries and benefits of Senate staff in member offices and committees to evaluate how Senate compensation compares within and outside the Senate.  Providing compensation data would be voluntary for any Senate office or committee. The final report, released Monday, waters down language from earlier this year, which specifically required comparisons among Senate staff, the executive branch and the private sector. The final report also stripped language that would have required the review to compare state staff compensation within the Senate with respect to gender, race and ethnicity.

House food service

Some brand-name eateries have been added to the House side, including Dunkin’ Donuts in Longworth. The report encourages the House Chief Administrative Officer to “continue exploring” opportunities to add more branded food options. Members too, could see branded food options, depending on what the CAO’s exploration turns up. The declining quality of food and service at the Member’s Dining Room has been an issue for years. The conferees “direct the Chief Administrative Officer to explore applying the branded option concept to the dining room in an effort to provide consistent service, better food selection, and quality food to Members and their guests.”

Police horses

The Capitol Police have not had a Horse Mounted Unit since 2006 and costs to bring back the six person (plus horses) team could be prohibitive. However, some conferees “believe that having a HMU occasionally patrol the Capitol campus could be beneficial both from an aesthetic and security perspective.”The Capitol Police are directed to explore the possibility of entering into a memorandum of understanding with the United States Park Police and the Metropolitan Police Department to provide HMU support around the Capitol campus and report back to appropriators.

Capitol South Metro

The exit of the Capitol South Metro station drops travelers right on Capitol Hill, steps away from House office buildings. But you can’t see the Capitol Building and that leaves visitors confused about where to go. The conference report directs the Architect of the Capitol to “further study, evaluate, and develop designs for the transformation of First Street, SE into a more welcoming environment” with improvements for safety.  

Senate Child Care Center

The Senate Employees Child Care Center, situated just off campus, has a waitlist that stretches years. Some kids on the waitlist are halfway to kindergarten before they get one of the coveted spots. The agreement directs the Government Accountability Office to review the current operations of the Senate Employees’ Child Care Center. The study would dive into operating costs and the best method of dissolving the 50l(c)(3) that currently runs the SECCC.

Technology assessment

Dozens of requests came before the committee on restoring funding to the Office of Technology Assessment, according to the report. The conferees direct the Congressional Research Service to study and report on current resources available to members of Congress regarding science and technology policy and the need for or duplication of resources possible if a separate nonpartisan entity was crates to advise on science and technology issues.

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