architect-of-the-capitol

Lawmaker pay freeze continues under proposed 2020 spending bill
Legislative Branch measure boosts money for member security, conventions, inauguration

Capitol Police would get a boost in funding for additional security for Congress under a year-end spending package that would avert a partial government shutdown. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats who wanted to approve a raise for lawmakers for the first time since 2009 will have to wait until the next appropriations cycle to deliver, as the final fiscal 2020 Legislative Branch spending draft, released Monday, keeps salaries stagnant. 

The Legislative Branch section of an eight-bill package, one of two sets of appropriations bills to fund the government through next September, provides $5.1 billion in total discretionary funding for congressional operations. That would be up from $4.8 billion in fiscal 2019 funding. 

Photos of the Week
The week of Dec. 13 as captured by Roll Call’s photojournalists

Top row from left, Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are seen as the House Judiciary Committee hears the House Intelligence Committee’s presentation on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

J. Brett Blanton on track to become next architect of the Capitol
Nominee was most recently deputy vice president for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

J. Brett Blanton, nominee to be architect of the Capitol, right, introduces his family to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., before the start of his confirmation hearing on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Most of J. Brett Blanton’s nomination hearing before the Senate Rules Committee to be the next architect of the Capitol on Thursday was essentially a one-on-one public interview between him and Chairman Roy Blunt, as the remaining 18 members of the committee were absent for the majority of the hearing.

No opposition to Blanton, a Virginia resident, is evident, making him likely to be confirmed as the 12th architect of the Capitol. If confirmed, Blanton said he expects to start leading the agency by mid-January.

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.