WASHINGTON — Democrats controlling the Senate pressed Monday for an immediate infusion of money to repair the iconic dome of the U.S. Capitol, which has fallen into disrepair and has at least 1,300 cracks in it.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., says $61 million to fix the leaky Capitol Dome should be added to an upcoming stopgap spending bill to keep the government running into next year. That measure generally won't contain money for new initiatives and will instead freeze spending at current levels for almost every government program.
Schumer's statement came in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are negotiating through staff aides on the stopgap funding measure, which is needed to avert a partial shutdown of the government when the current budget year ends on Sept. 30.
Schumer says it would be a "national embarrassment" for the dome to continue to decay and that the money is needed to patch leaks that threaten its fresco and prevent passersby from being hit by ornamental fixtures that have been loosened by the elements.
"There is a time and a place to debate federal spending and the proper role of government, but most Americans believe that when your house has a leaky roof, you pay to fix the roof," Schumer said. "Postponing these repairs by another six months will only increase the project's price tag down the road."
Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith responded: "The Speaker is confident we can work together to fix the Capitol Dome without more political posturing from Senator Schumer."
The project would ordinarily be funded in the annual $4 billion-plus spending bill that sets Capitol Hill's budget. But the House-passed measure doesn't include funding for the project, while the Senate measure, which does contain the money, hasn't been called up for a vote.