Skip to main content

The dome of the Capitol is leaking and House Republicans refuse to appropriate money to repair "the nation's grandest symbol of federal authority", the New York Times reports.

"The dome needs a full rehabilitation, but the House has declined to appropriate the $61 million required for repairs as it pushes to reduce federal spending." Credit: Luke Sharrett, New York Times

The Capitol dome is imperiled by 1,300 cracks and House Republicans:

Like most of what the federal government is on the hook to fix — highways, bridges and airports — the dome is imperiled both by tough economic times and by a politically polarized Congress. While Senate appropriators have voted to repair the dome, which has not undergone major renovations for 50 years, their House counterparts say there is not money right now. In that way, the dome is a metaphor for the nation’s decaying infrastructure.
The Capitol needs $61 million to repair its exterior. There are 1,300 cracks and breaks in the dome. Water is seeping into the structure, which has rusted the cast iron ornamentation and stained the interior of the Rotunda.

The disrepair of our Capitol is more than just a metaphor. "It's a public safety issue," said Stephen Ayers, the architect of the Capitol. The architect's office oversees the building and many pieces of ornamentation have been removed from the dome for safety reasons.

"More pieces of the Capitol's cast iron ornamental structure await replacement."
Credit: Chet Susslin, National Journal.

"At least 100 pieces of the dome have fallen off or been removed, including a 40-pound cast-iron decorative acorn." Imagine what a chunk of falling cast iron would do if it were to land on the head of someone working or visiting the Capitol.

"A piece of cast iron was removed from the dome for safety reasons by the Architect of the Capitol."
Source: Architect of the Capitol

“When you have those conditions on the outside,” said Mr. Ayers, the Capitol’s architect, “it really accelerates deterioration on the inside,” including possible damage to the fresco, which is painted on plaster.
The fresco is "The Apotheosis of Washington" that is just feet below where the Rotunda is already stained by water damage.
The Apotheosis of Washington, by Constantino Brumidi (1865). Source: Architect of the Capitol

The Senate has tried to speed along the repair process, but have been blocked by the Republican-led House. Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and John Hoeven (R-ND), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, have made sure their committee provided funding for repair work before they left on August recess. House Republicans, however, "want to finance much of the government’s operations at lower levels" and refuse to allocate funds to fix the Capitol.

"This is basic upkeep to the United States Capitol building. There is a time and place to debate spending levels and the proper role of the federal government, but when your house has a leaky roof, you pay to fix the roof," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said.

"Rust gathers along the molding of the Capitol Dome. The architect of the Capitol says that water has seeped through the structure and is causing damage inside." Source: National Journal

Without House cooperation, Senate leaders think the differences between the Senate and House budgets will not be resolved until after the November election at the earliest.

The lack of funding for repair work is a concern for architects and engineers not involved with the project too, the National Journal reports. If the repair work is delayed, it will become more expensive to fix the Capitol building.

“The rule of thumb is that the cost of deferring maintenance is 15 times more when [something] does break,” said Andrew Goldberg of the American Institute of Architects.

If repair work begins by February 2013, planers hope the four-year project will be completed by 2017 in time for the presidential inauguration.

Much of our national infrastructure is in desperate need of repair or overhaul. August marks the five-year anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which killed 13 people and injured 145 others.

The I-35W bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 1, 2007.
Credit: Dani Bora, Flickr, Creative Commons.

Will House Republicans condemn our nation's Capitol to the same fate of the doomed I-35W bridge? Apparently yes, since it means shrinking federal spending and preventing needed jobs being created during the Obama presidency.

Last September, President Barack Obama spoke beside a decaying bridge between Ohio and Kentucky to call attention to the nation's decaying national infrastructure and that American jobs can be created by repairing and fixing it.

"Part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, those are the two most powerful Republicans in government. They can either kill this jobs bill, or they can help pass this jobs bill," Obama said.

"President Obama speaks on his proposed American Jobs Act in front of the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati." Credit: Mandel Ngan, AFP.

I can’t imagine that the Speaker wants to represent a state where nearly one in four bridges are classified as substandard -- one in four. I know that when Senator McConnell visited the closed bridge in Kentucky, he said that, “Roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington.” That’s great. I know that Paul Ryan, the Republican in charge of the budget process, recently said that "you can’t deny that infrastructure does creates jobs." That's what he said.

Well, if that’s the case, there’s no reason for Republicans in Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects. There’s no reason to stand in the way of more jobs.

Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. Help us rebuild America. Help us put construction workers back to work.

Republicans killed the president's job bill last November and funding "that would have provided $60 billion for funding transportation projects and seeded a new infrastructure bank". Instead, Republicans pushed an alternative that would not have created jobs. Their proposal was "not even remotely serious."

"Republicans in Congress are the only thing that is preventing these measures from putting more Americans back to work right now," wrote Jeffrey Liebman, an economic policy advisor for the Obama campaign, in the Wall Street Journal. "If Mitt Romney really wanted to get job growth going, he would tell his Republican colleagues to stop blocking the president's proposals."

Analysis by the Center for American Progress estimated "that an additional $129.2 billion a year in new capital investment is warranted over the next 10 years." That would make the minimum national investment to be $262.1 billion annually to keep maintained the national infrastructure.

"By ratcheting up infrastructure investment by $129.2 billion per year, sizable job-creation gains will be realized." The Department of Transportation estimated in 2007 that with every $1 billion in highway expenditures come 27,800 jobs and Moody’s Analytics, "found in 2011 that new federal spending for infrastructure improvements to highways and public schools would generate $1.44 of economic activity for each $1 spent," CAP reported.

In the Washington Post, Ezra Kline wrote the inability of Congress to pass needed infrastructure funding is an "embarrassment".

This is a bad time to do a half-measure on infrastructure. We have literally trillions of dollars in unmet infrastructure needs. We have massive unemployment in the construction sector. Materials are unusually cheap because of a depressed global economy. Borrowing is unusually cheap because we're one of the few safe havens left in the global financial market. And it's cheaper to [repair] an aging bridge today than rebuild a crumbled one 10 years from now.
The time to put Americans to work fixing the country is long past due. President Obama has a jobs and infrastructure plan to get it done. The Republicans have the Ryan-Romney fudget plan, which would cut the taxes for the wealthiest Americans, increase Pentagon spending, but cut all other federal spending. "It would leave nothing for infrastructure," The Atlantic observed. Republicans would rather watch the Capitol's dome crumble into rust than put Americans back to work fixing our nation's infrastructure.


Originally posted to Magnifico on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by I Vote for Democrats.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

skybluewater, Thumb, Alumbrados, Sylv, jo fish, DeminNewJ, KeithH, TXdem, northsylvania, Mogolori, murphy, ORDem, native, Geenius at Wrok, Danno11, DebtorsPrison, greenbird, bosdcla14, TechBob, alicia, Sherri in TX, m maddog, Wintermute, SanJoseLady, eeff, dsb, WI Deadhead, Matilda, expat germany, expatjourno, bookbear, Creosote, RubDMC, Mr Teem, concernedamerican, Zinman, Babsnc, TracieLynn, magnetics, whenwego, SoCalJayhawk, boadicea, mkfarkus, Aquarius40, roses, bwren, jalbert, semiot, Cedwyn, Quege, ninothemindboggler, tidalwave1, psnyder, Moody Loner, emmasnacker, mwk, pat bunny, leevank, cosette, DSC on the Plateau, Sychotic1, renaissance grrrl, raster44, Timbuk3, riverlover, Matt Esler, Noisy Democrat, zerelda, Sembtex, glattonfolly, side pocket, mungley, lonespark, tomjones, JayDean, Emmy, eve, solesse413, jhawklefty, sebastianguy99, oortdust, sawgrass727, ExStr8, kbman, maybeeso in michigan, marina, Tinfoil Hat, Ckntfld, UFOH1, OpherGopher, Simplify, craigkg, basquebob, terrypinder, dewtx, ChemBob, Brooke In Seattle, Dobber, madmommy, reflectionsv37, Byrnt, fixxit, eru, cfk, Ianb007, SaraBeth, jimstaro, uato carabau, where4art, Gordon20024, Robert in WV, markdd, Ozymandius, PinHole, spunhard, Savvy813, Blu Gal in DE, Ginny in CO, sodalis, Rogneid, coloradorob, JanL, mrchips46, xanthippe2, kathny, Jim R, begone, Mother Mags, Born in NOLA, martini, BachFan, stef, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, myboo, Kingsmeg, Clytemnestra, edwardssl, BlueInARedState, tonyahky, HoundDog, mr crabby, liberalconservative, mooshter, koNko, kestrel9000, ccmask, fiddler crabby, Son of a Cat, blueoasis, erratic, agnostic, JVolvo, Zwoof, middleagedhousewife, JugOPunch, CA Nana, blueoregon, kurt, MadMs, nannyboz, ArkDem14, ms badger, BentLiberal, Babylon, tegrat, One Pissed Off Liberal, bear83, john07801, pfiore8, Habitat Vic, JohnMac, tgypsy, ksp, gloriana, edsbrooklyn, FishOutofWater, Nespolo, terabytes, newpioneer, bnasley, artisan, jayden, US Blues, klnb1019, second gen, theChild, mudslide, jnhobbs, jhop7, gchaucer2, christianlsv, uciguy30, Chico David RN, GeorgeXVIII, madgranny, skod, A Person, Empower Ink, trivium, jwinIL14, skymutt, Amor Y Risa, JeffW, gfv6800, Port City Moon, HappyinNM, OleHippieChick, Sixty Something, Foundmyvoice, bythesea, Cat Servant, lineatus, Its any one guess, jamess, Americans for a Republican Irrelevancy, here4tehbeer, Lujane, tofumagoo, Cassandra Waites, left my heart, bluesheep, dagolfnut, Jeff Y, envwq, Gemina13, petulans, emidesu, JamieG from Md, dmhlt 66, GrannyOPhilly, shortgirl, lissablack, CA coastsider, statsone, squarewheel, oldliberal, 207wickedgood, maggiejean, prettygirlxoxoxo, greengemini, lostinamerica, Michael James, Carol in San Antonio, notrouble, shopkeeper, CamillesDad1, elziax, kevinpdx, jfromga, MizKit, astral66, ruscle, Just Bob, Deighved H Stern MD, brentbent, coppercelt, mamamorgaine, KroneckerD, flitedocnm, LaughingPlanet, The Jester, jethrock, piers, michelewln, eb23, klompendanser, angelajean, Polly Syllabic, leftist vegetarian patriot, renzo capetti, Dingodude, gulfgal98, pixxer, ItsSimpleSimon, anonevent, rfall, DiegoUK, jim283, shel3364, rja, DrTerwilliker, ericlewis0, Loose Fur, Oh Mary Oh, nosleep4u, cany, slice, Quantumlogic, Onomastic, redlum jak, kerflooey, Bob Duck, bgblcklab1, sostos, vahana, La Gitane, FarWestGirl, Nicci August, GardenGuy, marleycat, zukesgirl64, IllanoyGal, thomask, BarackStarObama, SueM1121, illegal smile, whoknu, antooo, sound of progress, jolux, MattYellingAtTheMoon, stlsophos, thejoshuablog, googie, Azazello, YaNevaNo, anodnhajo, pistolSO, Chrislove, Siri, IndieGuy, David54, tb92, barkingcat, a2nite, Trotskyrepublican, CA ridebalanced, Horace Boothroyd III, This old man, Mr Robert, Tyler R, Forward is D not R, jan4insight, hotheadCA, belinda ridgewood, My Name Isnt Earl, Olkate, MartyM, doroma, wxorknot, james321, arizonablue, rat racer, Kinak, 4mygirls, history first, Dr Swig Mcjigger, Marjmar, Melanie in IA, peptabysmal, Robynhood too, live1, Hammerhand, Sue B, BobTheHappyDinosaur, nuclear winter solstice, nomandates, mrdreked, The grouch, glorificus, weck, MemaW, Icicle68, OjaiValleyCali, ModerateJosh, sjburnman, Jim Domenico, fred2012, sparkysgal

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site