The Battle of the Capitol Tours 

Posted: 9:01 pm Sunday, December 14th, 2008

By Jamie Dupree

Back in the 1990’s, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida proposed that Disney be hired to revamp the way that tours of the U.S. Capitol were given to the public.  That went nowhere, but we’re still fighting over how best to do it.

The fight is escalating again now that the new U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center has been opened.

The mammoth, over budget project does give tourists a much better historical review of the Capitol and the Congress, with a presentation that simply did not exist before, when tourists simply stood outside in the elements waiting for a tour.

(I do have to chuckle at the outrage about the comment from the Senate Democratic Leader about “smelly” tourists.  If you worked in the Capitol, you would understand that comment, especially on a hot day in July.  But we digress.)

What lawmakers are worried about is that Capitol officials will try to make all tourists take tours only from the approved Capitol tour guides and not from Congressional staffers.

Lots of lamwakers prefer to have their own people give the tours, because it’s a home state touch usually.

But as someone who knows much of the history of the Capitol, I must say that most of those young staffers routinely give tours that are laden with incorrect facts and generally botch the history of the building.

Not all of them.  But sometimes what they say is so wrong that I will stop and correct them while walking through the building. 

So with that as your background, my ear last Thursday perked up when I heard the Senate quickly approve a resolution on tours given by Congressional staff members.

110th CONGRESS

2d Session


S. CON. RES. 107



CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

    Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that–

      (1) Members of Congress (or any employee of a Member of Congress authorized by that Member) should not be prohibited, with or without prior notice to the Architect of the Capitol, the Chief Executive Officer for Visitor Services, or the Capitol Guide Service, from taking guests or visitors into the publicly accessible areas of the United States Capitol complex during normal business hours;

That’s just part of the non-binding resolution that was approved by the Senate. Basically, it’s a shot across the bow to say, “Don’t screw with our staff tours.”

We’ll see how it all works out.