US Capitol extends visitor restrictions until June

Public access to the U.S. Capitol will be further restricted until June 9 due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Friday, following an extension of the District of Columbia’s stay-at-home order.

The current restrictions suspending public tours at the Capitol were set to expire on Saturday, but officials extended those restrictions after Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said this week that the city’s stay-at-home order will be extended until at least June 8.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and his Senate counterpart, Michael Stenger, said the public restrictions to the Capitol will remain in effect through June 9 “or until an assessment of prevailing community pandemic health conditions allows for access restrictions to begin to be lifted.”

“These temporary limitations are extended given the ongoing COVID-19 concerns,” they said in a joint statement.

The Capitol has been closed to the public since March 12 amid the coronavirus outbreak. Only lawmakers, staff, credentialed press and official business visitors are permitted entry.

Members of the public can still walk freely outdoors on the Capitol plaza, however. A handful of passersby on Friday heckled some members of Congress for not properly wearing masks as they descended the House steps after casting floor votes.

The Senate reconvened last week with some new safety precautions, including encouraging facial coverings and hearings with some senators and witnesses participating remotely.

House Democratic leaders have held off on reconvening the chamber for the long term, citing advice from the Capitol physician that the D.C. region remains a coronavirus hot spot.

But House officials have adopted new safety measures for the occasions when lawmakers have briefly returned to Washington to vote on coronavirus relief bills. 

The House’s 430 members have been voting in staggered groups by alphabetical order and have been encouraged to wear facial coverings, although some conservative Republicans have declined to follow the guidance.

The House on Friday also adopted historic rules changes to allow proxy voting, in which absent lawmakers can authorize colleagues physically present in the Capitol to cast votes on their behalf, as well as remote committee hearings and markups.

Tags Coronavirus

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