architect-of-the-capitol

Campus Notebook: President nominates pick for Architect of the Capitol

The Cannon House Office Building renovation will be a tough issue to grapple with for Blanton. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump on Monday nominated J. Brett Blanton to be the next Architect of the Capitol for a 10-year stint.

If confirmed by the Senate, Blanton would provide stability to the helm of an agency that has been led by a succession of acting directors. Christine Merdon, an acting director, announced her resignation in August and was replaced by Thomas Carroll, who worked in the same capacity. The Architect of the Capitol is responsible for maintaining the facilities on the Capitol complex as well as renovations.

Road ahead: impeachment progress, judicial nominations and a Christmas tree
First open hearing at House Judiciary is set for Wednesday

The lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree, which arrived last week, will take place the same day as the next House impeachment hearing. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

In a sign of the season, the next open House impeachment hearing is scheduled to take place the same day as the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree.

The impeachment inquiry remains front and center as Congress returns this week, with the Senate continuing to methodically confirm the judicial nominations of President Donald Trump.

Two top Architect of the Capitol employees have left the agency after investigation
Senate Building Superintendent Takis Tzamaras and House Building Superintendent Bill Weidemeyer both left in July

Acting Architect of the Capitol Thomas Carroll. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two top employees at the Architect of the Capitol who oversaw building operations in the House and Senate are no longer working there, months after they were put on administrative leave while they were investigated for emails critical of Christine Merdon, the former head of the agency.

Senate Building Superintendent Takis Tzamaras and House Building Superintendent Bill Weidemeyer both left the agency in July. Tzamaras said he resigned and Weidemeyer said he retired.

Final price tag unknown for Cannon House Office Building renovation
Asbestos, PCBs among the hazardous materials found in the project

Thomas Carroll III, acting Architect of the Capitol, testifies during the House Administration Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The final price tag for renovations at the Cannon House Office Building, already potentially more than $100 million over budget, remains unknown as the project attempts to meet its scheduled 2024 completion date, the acting Architect of the Capitol told the House Administration Committee on Tuesday.

New mitigation efforts after hazardous materials were found in the building would require more money from Congress, and the project may need to combine phases, push deadlines and move additional offices out of the building for a longer period of time, acting Architect of the Capitol Thomas Carroll III said.

Cannon renewal could be $100 million over budget; hazardous materials found
Project has not yet fully completed Phase 1 yet

The Cannon House Office Building renovation has encountered several hurdles. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The project to renovate the Cannon House Office Building could climb more than $100 million over budget, a process that has, in part, been delayed by the discovery of hazardous materials and a fluid list of changes requested by the Architect of the Capitol that deviates from the original plan.

Terrell Dorn, managing director for infrastructure operations at the Government Accountability Office, notes in testimony submitted for Tuesday’s House Administration Committee oversight hearing on the Cannon project that the Architect of the Capitol expects the total building renovation cost to increase substantially from the initial estimate.

Merdon out at AOC, Thomas Carroll named new acting architect
Search continues for permanent Architect of the Capitol

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon resigned, and Thomas J. Carroll has been named to lead the agency. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Christine Merdon is out as acting Architect of the Capitol, and Thomas J. Carroll has been named to lead the agency on an acting basis as the search for a permanent AOC continues.

In an internal notice to AOC employees, Merdon said she had accepted a job outside of the agency.

So much for Whistleblower Appreciation Day; Capitol Hill workers still unprotected
Employees of legislative branch agencies don't have the same protections as other federal workers

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., once cosponsored a whistleblower protection bill, but Capitol Hill staff remain unprotected. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate had declared July 30 as “National Whistleblower Appreciation Day,” but that apparently is for other people, since senators’ own staffers and other legislative branch employees are not protected equally compared to other federal workers.

The discrepancy has been in place for years, but legislation to expand protections for employees of the House and Senate, Library of Congress, Capitol Police and other agencies hasn’t moved forward.

Architect of the Capitol finds itself in court over discrimination cases
Court rules that second discrimination case can go forward

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Architect of the Capitol finds itself under fire for alleged discrimination, and could be headed to messy federal court fights over the matter.

A federal appeals court has ruled that a reasonable jury could agree with an AOC employee that he was discriminated against for his national origin when he was denied promotions in 2014 and 2015.

Appeals court orders trial in discrimination suit involving Capitol architect's office
Employee alleged his name was mocked by hiring team considering his promotion

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A racial discrimination lawsuit filed by an Architect of the Capitol employee who was passed up for a promotion will move forward to trial after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a district court that had dismissed the case.

The appeals court found that Javier Mayorga, who emigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua in 1990, presented evidence that could lead a jury to infer he was the victim of discrimination. An electronic industrial controls mechanic in the Capitol Superintendent’s Office, Mayorga has been an AOC employee since 2007. He has received numerous awards and his work was rated “outstanding” in his previous two evaluations, the court ruling said.

House Democrats telegraph policy priorities in Capitol Hill funding
Comparison of previous GOP, current Dem spending choices show differences

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., attends a news conference with House Democrats on March 12 to introduce the “Dream and Promise Act.” The new majority’s Legislative Branch Appropriations bill would allow Dreamers to get jobs on Capitol Hill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Empowered by their control of the House, Democrats are telegraphing their policy priorities in how they plan to spend taxpayer dollars on Capitol Hill, including exploring student debt relief options and employing Dreamers in Congress.

The fiscal 2020 House Legislative Branch Appropriations bill is signaling what types of issues Democrats want to be talking about and working on, both for their constituents back home and right here on Capitol Hill.