Saturday, May 14, 2011
OVERBILLED? TIME FOR NEW CONGRESS TO APPOINT NEW ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL!
House approves new method of selecting Architect of the Capitol
By Jordy Yager - 02/04/10 07:00 AM ET
The House passed a bipartisan measure on Wednesday that would eliminate the White House’s role in selecting the next Architect of the Capitol (AoC).
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the bill’s sponsor, is gauging the Senate’s support of the measure, which would convene a 10-member bipartisan selection committee of House and Senate leadership to choose the new architect.
The selection of a new AoC, who is in charge of maintaining and improving the Capitol complex’s infrastructure — including the Capitol Visitor Center — has required the president’s decision and the Senate’s approval since 1997, when Bill Clinton appointed Alan Hantman to be the 10th architect.
The Senate failed to take up Wasserman Schultz’s bill last Congress after some senators cited concerns that the revised process would leave them bereft of their traditional approval power.
But members of the House committees with Capitol oversight say the process is outdated. The architect is only responsible to Congress, these members argue, and therefore it is Congress that should have sole oversight in selecting the person for the job.
“I’m going to try and explain to [senators] that this actually gets both houses more of a role and more direct control over who becomes the Architect of the Capitol and when,” said Wasserman Schultz in an interview with The Hill.
"While their role would change, they would actually be more involved in the selection process because, as it is, they just have a say over the president’s choice. And this way they have a say in the whole process from start to finish and would be able to make sure that the architect that is selected is the most responsive to the legislative branch."
The new selection committee would consist of the Speaker of the House, the Senate president pro tempore, the House and Senate majority and minority members, the chairmen and the ranking members of the House Administration Committee, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the House and Senate Appropriations committees.
Wasserman Schultz's office said the details of how a candidate would receive the committee's final approving vote — and, if necessary, that of each chamber — would be worked out once the legislation passed.
"We see this as a simple piece of legislation that more closely mirrors the Founding Fathers' belief in separation of powers," said Jonathan Beeton, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz. "The exact details of the selection process by Congress is better left for the leaders in Congress to decide, rather than place this level of detail into statute."
The bill has received support from both sides of the aisle, including the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.), who said in prepared floor remarks that the proposed process would "be better aligned with the mission of the office."
Stephen Ayers has served as the acting architect since his predecessor left in 2007. A spokeswoman for Ayers said the office does not comment on pending legislation. But the architectural community has long argued Ayers is a viable candidate for the permanent AoC position.
The former Senate Rules and Administration Committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), was one of those to cast a wary eye on the bill’s success last Congress. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has since taken over as the committee’s chairman; it is unclear what bearing this will have on the legislation. Schumer’s office did not return requests for comment by press time.
The White House reportedly has been considering several candidates for the AoC position but has sent no final selection to the Senate for the past three years. Meanwhile, there is a growing backlog of maintenance and infrastructure needs that Capitol officials say would be better addressed by an architect who has the job security that comes with the 10-year official appointment.
Posted by Eileen at 9:07 AM