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  • Writer's pictureNILE

Capitol Hill is Open!

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

By: Paul Miller, Chairman of the Board, National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics


Yesterday we kicked off the start of a new Congress and the reopening of Capitol Hill. When COVID-19 hit and the country shut down, keeping the government up and running was critical. At that moment moving to a virtual government was necessary. But, it was never meant to become permanent. COVID-19 made it easier to implement rules that allowed for greater flexibility for Congress to work from home and implement a proxy system. If not for our profession, temporary rules might have become permanent.


Once the country started safely opening up after the pandemic, the National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics (NILE) was front and center meeting with congressional leaders, Capitol Police, public interest groups, and engaging with the lobbying profession on ways we could support a safe reopening of Capitol Hill. It didn’t happen as quickly as we had hoped, but your voice has been heard, and starting yesterday, Capitol Hill has been reopened to the people.


It wasn’t easy, but it did get done with the help of some critical champions, including:


Congressman Kevin McCarthy: Not only worked with us on a reopening plan but included NILE in dialogues that led to letters to former Speaker Pelosi and the House Physician.


House & Senate Democrats: Supported our position and worked with NILE on ideas that would make selling a reopening possible.


Majority Leader Steve Scalise: Supported NILE and heard our concerns and solutions to effectively reopening Capitol Hill.

The Capitol Hill Police: Met with NILE on several occasions to discuss the strains they are seeing in their workforce and the challenges they were hit with during the shutdown of their training facility during COVID. Being able to have a direct line to the Capitol Police helped us understand their needs and the challenges to reopening.


Former Rep. Rodney Davis: Met with NILE on several occasions to discuss how

reopening Capitol Hill can be done safely.


Senate Leadership: Worked with NILE on concrete plans to ensure everyone is safe during a reopening.


Rep. Ralph Norman: Met with NILE several times and discussed how best

to ensure people have access to their elected officials.




During our push to reopen Capitol Hill what concerned us the most was a comment by a senior staffer that the media had more of a right to be in those buildings than lobbyists. Their claim was our push to reopen is so lobbyists could have special access. No, we wanted to be able to do our jobs on behalf of the millions of people we represent. We wanted Capitol Hill to be reopened so that every constituent could come to D.C. to petition their government and every school group could come here and see their government up close and personal. We wanted the same rights granted us by the Constitution that the media were being given.


LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

Page 19

Reopening the Capitol Campus.-Reopening the Capitol campus safely to the public is the Committees' priority. The Department is directed to provide the Committees, within 30 days after the enactment of this Act a written reopening plan, to include a list of post/mission requirements with identified protection/security activity, sworn staffing requirements, Capitol Security Officer staffing requirements, additional duty requirements, and other resources needed to reopen the Capitol campus to its pre-pandemic posture, factoring in any additional requirements resulting from January 6, 2021, and increasing threats against Members of Congress. Further, the Department shall provide an update to the Committees every 30 days on the resources available to staff those posts and challenges that impact the proposed reopening plan. Lastly, the plan should include a proposed timeline for reopening, understanding that fluctuations in hiring occur, as well as additional security requirements, and can alter the schedule. As the plan will include law enforcement sensitive information, it should be made available within the respective House and Senate security offices to be viewed by authorized representatives of the Committees.

The journey that led to the reopening was long and difficult, but today we celebrate the reopening for the people. Thank you NILE and everyone who helped lead the charge, including Tom Fahy, NILE’s public-policy chair, Jon Gentile, Jamie Gregory, Nicole Smith, and NILE President Jocelyn Hong.

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