Architect of the Capitol

Just where is this secret House jail located?
A Capitol basement investigation yielded some answers

The Lincoln catafalque is seen Wednesday through bars in a chamber below the Capitol Crypt. Contrary to many a rumor, this is not the House jail. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi resurfaced one of the Capitol’s most enduring mysteries when answering a question about whether Democrats might imprison Trump administration officials who defy Congress: the House jail. But where is this mysterious cell?

“We do have a little jail down in the basement of the Capitol, but if we were arresting all of the people in the administration, we would have an overcrowded jail situation. And I’m not for that,” Pelosi said Wednesday at a Washington Post live event.

Native American representation on Capitol Hill concerns House lawmakers
Appropriators take aim at what they call offensive art and disrespectful tours

House Appropriators are urging the Architect of the Capitol to work with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian to contextualize portrayals of Native Americans on Capitol Hill. Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe and pictured here, spoke at the opening of the museum in 2004. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo.)

House lawmakers are raising issues about Native American representation in and around the Capitol — and they aren’t talking about the record number of Native American women in the 116th Congress.

A House Appropriations Committee report released Wednesday highlights disrespectful descriptions of Native Americans on Capitol tours and depictions in artwork around the Capitol campus, which “do not portray Native Americans as equals or Indian nations as independent sovereigns.” 

IG Report: Some members of Congress sexually harassed night-shift custodians
Architect of the Capitol officials accused of creating ‘culture of permissibility’

An Architect of the Capitol worker paints the wall at the top of the escalator to the Senate subway in the Capitol in November 2015. A recent report alleges a sexual harassment ‘culture of permissibility’ in the AOC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Members of Congress allegedly sexually harassed night shift custodial staff while they cleaned their offices. Sexual harassment prevention training went off the rails. And the Architect of the Capitol has no unified system for effectively tracking complaints and resolutions of sexual harassment cases.

These are just some of the findings in a recent inspector general’s report on sexual harassment within the AOC in the last decade.

The bells of Congress, they are a-changin’
Architect of the Capitol eyes replacement ‘legislative call system’ of bells and clocks

The Architect of the Capitol is moving forward with plans to replace the bells and clocks of the legislative call system. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

There’s a new tempo coming to Capitol Hill, as plans move forward to replace the bells and clocks of the legislative call system. That means the familiar buzzes and blinking lights that have ruled the corridors for years could be changing.

The Architect of the Capitol is looking to commission the development, design and installation of a revamped system. It will work alongside the existing network used to alert members of Congress and staff to action on the floor.

House and Senate building superintendents placed on administrative leave
The high ranking Architect of the Capitol employees are under investigation

The House and Senate building superintendents, who work under acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdron, picture here, have been put on leave, pending an investigation into inappropriate emails. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two high ranking Architect of the Capitol employees charged with leading all operations of the House and Senate office buildings have been placed on administrative leave, an AOC spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

House Building Superintendent Bill Weidemeyer and Senate Building Superintendent Takis Tzamaras were placed on leave pending an investigation into inappropriate emails. Weidemeyer and Tzamaras both report to acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon, who took the helm of the agency in late November 2018 after Stephen T. Ayers retired.

GAO says Architect of the Capitol needs workforce management changes
Government watchdog points to 2017 layoffs and urges formalized process to collect information on staffing needs

The Government Accountability Office says the Architect of the Capitol needs to revamp some workforce practices. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Architect of the Capitol’s construction division is designed to provide flexible labor options across the agency, but the Government Accountability Office says AOC needs to institute a formal process for collecting information on projects and priorities to better manage the temporary staff. In recent years employees in the construction division were given little notice of layoffs due to lack of work in certain jurisdictions.

In a report released this week, the GAO says AOC has missed opportunities to obtain information critical to making informed decisions about project staffing.

Should Congress spend more on itself to avoid deterioration?
Former lawmakers and groups think crisis is brewing if investments not made

Civil society organizations and former lawmakers are calling on appropriators to boost funding for Congress itself to avoid a “crisis.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Civil society groups and former lawmakers are calling on appropriators to boost funding for Congress itself to stem what they call a “significant loss of institutional capacity.”

Ten former lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, joined more than three dozen groups to pen letters to House and Senate appropriators asking that the Legislative Branch slice of the federal funding pie get a bit larger. Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Eva M. Clayton of North Carolina were among the former members to sign the letter, which was led by the advocacy organization Demand Progress. 

Green roof deck dreams for Hart dry up
Hopes for a roof deck atop the Hart died on the vine Tuesday after a reality check from the Architect of the Capitol

There’s not a breezy hangout spot coming to the roof of the Hart Building. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Hopes for a roof deck atop the Hart Senate Office Building for employees to enjoy died on the vine Tuesday after a reality check from the Architect of the Capitol.

It all started with a hearing on the Architect of the Capitol’s 2020 budget proposal. The line of questioning by the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee turned to energy savings, sustainable practices and a lengthy discussion on grass genotypes best suited for green roofs. 

The other AOC has big plans for 2020
The Architect of the Capitol is requesting a sizable budget boost for fiscal 2020

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon is requesting a sizable budget boost for fiscal 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Architect of the Capitol is requesting a sizable budget boost as the agency tries to tackle massive restoration projects and fend off cybersecurity threats.

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon submitted an $832 million request for fiscal 2020, which would be a $98 million, or 15.9 percent, increase over enacted levels.

Asbestos removal set to begin in Russell, Dirksen buildings
Work will take place overnight and not during normal work hours

Asbestos removal set to begin in the Russell and Dirksen Senate office buildings. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Architect of the Capitol will begin removing materials containing asbestos from two Senate office buildings on Saturday, with some of the work expected to continue through April.

Workers on Saturday will be removing waterproofing that contains asbestos from the northwest terrace of the Russell Building at the corner of Delaware Avenue and C Street NE and floor tiles in the Dirksen Building, according to the Senate Superintendent’s office.