Skip to comments.CVC opens, can’t shake controversy ($621 million Capitol Visitor Center)
Posted on 12/02/2008 9:01:42 PM PST by NormsRevenge
Following years of delays and skyrocketing costs, Tuesdays opening of the $621 million Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) was marked by more controversy and criticism.
At a morning dedication ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reids (D-Nev.) offhand comment about how the taxpayer-funded center meant he and other lawmakers would not have to smell sweaty tourists raised eyebrows.
By the afternoon, a Republican senator had claimed the center was godless, while a budget watchdog raised familiar arguments about the projects wasteful spending. That followed poor reviews of the centers architecture in two newspapers.
House and Senate leaders largely ignored the four years of delays and the centers price tag, which ballooned to more than eight times its original estimation, as they spoke at the centers opening ceremony in the newly christened Emancipation Hall.
This new addition to our majestic Capitol embodies our nations ability to adapt while preserving our essential American character, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said to a crowd of about 500. As both members and visitors enjoy the educational benefits of [the] Capitol Visitor Center, we will be inspired to explore new paths and to write new chapters in our nations great history.
Reids comment came as he noted the long lines of tourists who come to visit the Capitol during the bitter cold of winter and sweltering heat of a Washington summer. By constructing the CVC, lawmakers hoped to provide a more comfortable and educational introduction to the Capitol with tighter security measures.
Tourists line up in summer and winter, said Reid. In the summertime, because of the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol.
Many of the staffers and lawmakers in the crowded 20,000-square-foot hall laughed and nodded in agreement at Reids remark. Besides Reid and Pelosi, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) heaped praise on the CVC.
The CVC includes grandeur and comfort. It hosts a 530-person restaurant and two 250-person theaters, which show a 13-minute educational film. It also includes 26 bathrooms, addressing one common complaint of those visiting the Capitol.
Though only open to the public for a half-day on Tuesday, officials are expecting to see about 3 million visitors come through the doors and magnetometers over the next year.
Boehner and the other congressional leaders paid respects to the families of Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, the two U.S. Capitol Police officers killed in the line of duty in 1998. The slayings helped make increasing security at the Capitol through a new visitors center a higher priority for Congress.
Lawmakers also acknowledged the African-American slaves who helped build the Capitol, giving credit to Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) for heading up legislation that changed the name of the center hall to Emancipation Hall.
That day we talked about the fact that the Capitol was built by slaves, Pelosi said of working on the bill.
Today I want to talk about the fact that its so appropriate that, though long overdue, this Capitol Visitor Center is ready for 2009, which is the 200th anniversary, the bicentennial, of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator.
At about three-fourths the size of the Capitol, dozens of employees spent the day before the CVCs opening washing the giant 30-by-70-foot skylights, installing last-minute railings and stocking the gift shop, said Sharon Gang, the marketing and communications manager for the CVC.
Staff also conducted last-minute climate control tests and made final lighting adjustments in the Exhibition Hall, where dozens of artifacts are on display, including the Lincoln catafalque. President Abraham Lincolns casket was placed atop the catafalque after he was assassinated, and it has been used ever since when presidents and military leaders have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
Still, some expressed unhappiness on Tuesday.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) practically described the CVC as godless in a press release criticizing the center for not honoring the countrys religious heritage. He said the current educational display is left-leaning and in some cases distort[s] our true history.
The Capitol Visitor Center is designed to tell the history and purpose of our nations Capitol, but it fails to appropriately honor our religious heritage that has been critical to Americas success, said DeMint in the release.
DeMint called attention to an engraving welcoming visitors to the CVC that quotes Rufus Choate, a 19th-century congressman from Massachusetts: We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.
This is an intentional misrepresentation of our nations real history, and an offensive refusal to honor Americas God-given blessings, DeMint said. The fundamental principles of the freedom we enjoy in this country stem from our Founding Fathers beliefs in a higher power, beliefs put forth in the Declaration of Independence and manifest throughout our Constitution.
Boehner, however, thanked Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and the Congressional Prayer Caucus for ensuring this historic building includes appropriate references to our nations spiritual heritage including our national motto, In God We Trust.
More criticism of the new center came from Steve Ellis, vice president of the nonpartisan watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, who called the project a boondoggle. Ellis is concerned that the grandiose CVC could be used as an excuse in the event that officials, for whatever reason, want to restrict access to the Capitol.
We spent $621 million of taxpayers money in this project and I hope that it doesnt end up restricting or limiting access or become an impediment to access to the Capitol, the peoples house, where they can interact with their elected representatives, Ellis said.
Here’s the Youtube video:
Harry Reid doesn’t like smelly tourists
Keyword Harry Reid
Harry Reid doesn’t just smell, he stinks.
Why Nevada hasn’t demanded this world class a-hole resign yet, I’ll never know.
Reid makes Daschle look good.
I want to see what $621 million of our money gets us.
I'll do my best to stink the place up just for you, Harry.
Maybe this thing should have never been built. Ya think?
Hope Ayers and Dohrn don’t decide to bomb this $700 million building!
If there were any real reporters left they would be adding Reid and Pelosi & co. what they think of people who bomb public buildings, whether Ayers and Dohrn should have served time, and whether Obambi should have to answer for “palling around” with them.
AND, reporters should ask Ayers and Dohrn whether they plan to bomb the new Capitol Visitors’ Center etc. Here we have two known real-life terrorists living in plain sight, and no one wants to challenge them on what they stand for.
I have news for Reid, the stink that comes out of Washington is far worse than the stink from the tourists, and no matter what, we can smell that stink all the way out here in the west coast.
I visited the Capitol in 2002, not so long after September 11th. I don’t know if things have become less paranoid since then but after a very long period of waiting outside and undergoing security procedures, we were kept in a very tight group and not allowed to see very much at all. I got a lot more out of watching the C-SPAN special on the Capitol. They needed something like the CVC, although it sounds like the price tag was much too high.
A lunch of frijoles negros, po’ boys and stuffed cabbage. Beans for beaners and lactose will be served for the lactose intolerant. The meal will be followed by a tour and crop dusting of the brand spankin’ new Capitol Visitor Center.
Possible names for the event;
“Sound and Fission”
“The First Annual Harry Reid Methane Festival”
“The Great American Smoke Out”
Such degrading comments should make him step down from his senate seat in shame....or better yet, Nevada should DEMAND he step down...
He had best learn he works for US not the other way around!
It’s a subject that manages to find its way into more than a few FR threads, but I know that we have some stinky FReepers out there!
And you know who you are.
Now we have the ability to wield this awesome power ~ often so misunderstood ~ for the good of the Republic!
I’ve never been to DC. Does this center mean that people will no longer be allowed into the actual capitol building, where the congress debates?
Hmmmm... I wonder if the Moderator would let me change my FReep-name to "Smelly Tourist"?
This needs to be remembered for a long, long time.
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