While the sequester could have devastating ripple effects across the federal government and into Americans’ homes, on Capitol Hill the automatic spending cuts could also be just plain inconvenient.
On Friday morning, members of the congressional community received a memo from the Capitol Police Board, which is composed of House and Senate Sergeants-at-Arms Paul Irving and Terrance Gainer and Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers.
According to the memo, within the next two weeks, the board would be taking steps “to close some entrance doors and exterior checkpoints, and either suspend or modify the hours of operation for some of the U.S. Capitol Complex posts located inside and outside the [Capitol Visitor Center] and Office Buildings.”
Gainer, also the board chairman, had indicated to CQ Roll Call a few weeks earlier that there would be such closures in order to scale back on overtime payments to Capitol Police officers who must be posted at doors and checkpoints around the Capitol campus for security purposes.
But forcing lawmakers, staffers and visitors to endure longer lines to get inside the Capitol and its buildings is what’s necessary to keep the campus safe and maintain the strength of Capitol Hill law enforcement, according to the board.
“While we regret inconveniences this may cause, please be assured that the safety and security of the U.S. Capitol Complex will not be compromised,” the memo reads. “The U.S. Capitol Police will remain ever vigilant, prepared and committed to protecting the Congressional Community.”
Members of Congress and congressional staffers, to whom the letter is specifically addressed, will be kept up to date on specific closures and consolidations of checkpoints, the memo promises. There could also be more details next week about how the Capitol Police will meet the challenges of sequestration, when new Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine testifies before the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee.
On Friday, President Barack Obama also indicated that he was aware of the effect the sequester would have on the legislative branch, and not just on the Capitol Police officers who might miss out on overtime paychecks.
“Starting tomorrow, everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol. ... Now that Congress has left, somebody’s going to [be] vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They’re going to have less pay,” Obama said at a Friday morning news conference at the White House. “The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.”
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.