Campus Notebook: Rough Ride

Posted September 19, 2008 at 6:34pm

The Capitol Visitor Center is essentially built and almost ready to go, except for one major problem: Officials still haven’t decided how to get visitors to the CVC’s doors.

But in a document obtained by Roll Call, CVC officials laid out one option to transport handicapped visitors to the entrance — in shuttles that resemble golf carts.

[IMGCAP(1)]Six shuttles would pick up visitors at the West Front (where buses will be permitted to unload passengers) and drive them around to the East Front, where the CVC is located. Each shuttle would carry six passengers and cost about $18,000.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch will hold an oversight hearing, which will in part focus on the transportation plan.

So far, the only plans require buses to drop tourists off at the West Front, from where they would walk around the Capitol to the CVC. Capitol Police have blocked buses from traveling on the roads surrounding the CVC.

The shuttles would ostensibly give a ride to those visitors who aren’t able to make the walk. But, according to the document, the plan wouldn’t go into place until March 2009 — three months after the CVC opens on Dec. 2.

CVC officials would not comment on the document or the plan, citing a policy not to discuss hearing topics with the media prior to the hearing.

Gun Lobby. A group of Senators led by Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last week asking for floor time to debate and vote on Washington, D.C., gun legislation passed by the House.

The bill, approved last week, would remove many gun regulations put into place in D.C. after a June Supreme Court ruling lifted a 32-year-old handgun ban. Much to the chagrin of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the legislation, which was offered by freshman Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and supported by the National Rifle Association, passed overwhelmingly.

“We’ve got a lot to do next week and not a lot of time,” a source in Reid’s office said.

It was initially thought that the legislation would die in the Senate because of time restraints as adjournment nears.

The letter, signed by 47 Senators, including Democrats Max Baucus (Mont.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Ben Nelson (Neb.)

and Jon Tester (Mont.), urges Reid to make time to consider the bill.

“We ask you to ensure that D.C. residents do not have to wait any longer to realize their constitutional rights by allowing the full Senate to consider H.R. 6842 before the 110th Congress concludes,” the letter says.

Sources in Hutchison’s office say the Majority Leader has yet to give them a response.

Grim Reminder. The House passed a resolution last week calling for the flags to fly over the Capitol at half-staff once every month for fallen soldiers.

Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) decided to introduce the bill after seeing the casket of a soldier during a trip to Baghdad, according to a press release. The legislation was first introduced in 2004.

“Over one million Americans have paid the ultimate price to protect our country, its people, and our ideals since the time of the American Revolution,” Davis said. “This gesture, while small, honors the sacrifices that brave American men and women have made to protect our nation and our freedom in the spirit of patriotism.”

History, By Congress. The House Administration Committee usually spends its time holding hearings on such topics as franked mail and staffer salaries, but this week it will unveil another function — publishing.

“Black Americans in Congress” is a directory of the 121 African-Americans who have served in Congress and includes profiles, historical photographs and essays on major events.

Published under the direction of the committee, it will be released this week. A reception will be held on Wednesday in the Canon Caucus Room at 12:30 p.m.

The book is the second in a four-volume series highlighting the diversity of Congress; the first volume was “Women in Congress.”

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