Moran Seeks Limit on Smoking Areas

Posted June 21, 2005 at 6:34pm

Rep. Jim Moran (D) plans to advance a proposal today that would tighten restrictions over the few remaining asylums left to smokers on Capitol Hill.

The Virginia lawmaker plans to introduce an amendment to the fiscal 2006 legislative branch spending bill, which is expected to reach the House floor today, that would further limit the spaces available for smokers to light up inside Hill buildings.

While a copy of the amendment provided to Roll Call indicates it would eliminate funds for a designated smoking area in the Rayburn Building cafeteria only, Moran said he plans to focus on public areas across the House side of the Congressional campus.

The Democrat said while he does not want to see a total ban on smoking — an action he has previously supported — he does want to address existing policies on smoking areas.

“I think there are ways to accommodate this,” said Moran, who also raised the issue last week during a meeting of the full Appropriations Committee. “I want to protect nonsmokers from second-hand smoke, but I don’t want to be draconian about people who are longtime smokers.”

Moran said he is prepared to compromise on the issue, and suggested that problems in the Rayburn cafeteria — “for people who are sensitive to smoke, it’s almost asphyxiating,” he asserted — could be addressed by further limiting the smoking area, or creating a smoking area that would not be dually used for “spillover” during busy meal periods.

“We don’t necessary have to ban it,” he said. He noted that he has received numerous complaints from Congressional staff regarding the cafeteria, although he has not been approached by fellow lawmakers.

Moran added that he would like to see a new policy applied to all House office buildings.

A House official familiar with the situation noted that the House Superintendent’s Office is already considering the installation of accordion-style doors to further separate the Rayburn cafeteria’s smoking area and address complaints about the facility.

“We’re trying to find some type of compromise here,” the official said, and later added: “For the time being, the superintendent will look at a temporary enclosure around the smoking area.”

The Rayburn cafeteria, unlike designated smoking areas in the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria and near the Cannon House Office Building carry-out, does not use negative air-press to contain smoke, the official noted.

Any new regulations, would apply only to public areas, and would not affect the Speaker’s Lobby or Members’ personal offices, where lawmakers now set policies on an individual basis.

Current policies for the chamber’s facilities are set by the House Building Commission — composed of Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).