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Campus Notebook: CVC’s Rainy Day

The Architect of the Capitol’s office will inspect the entire storm drain system of the new Capitol Visitor Center after recent heavy rains led to a minor flood in the new underground building.

[IMGCAP(1)]On Thursday, a joint in a storm drain failed in the eastern corridor of the building, causing water to pour out of the ceiling. The result was a large puddle of water in one of the underground hallways.

AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said Friday that the office was able to fix the problem quickly.

“Within an hour of the incident last evening, AOC staff contained the leak, repaired the joint, and cleaned up the water,— she said in an e-mail.

Malecki declined to say how much the repair cost and whether the building has had any other leaks since it opened. But rain damage was a constant concern of Congressional appropriators during the construction of the CVC, which cost $621 million and is the largest-ever expansion to the Capitol.

For example, six months before the CVC opened, the underground tunnel from the CVC to the Library of Congress sprung several leaks, forcing workers to complete extra work to ensure the tunnel would be ready for the Dec. 2, 2008, opening.

A Bigger Bite. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee unanimously passed a bill last week that would enable the Government Accountability Office to access more records related to the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, the GAO is required to investigate the overall performance of TARP and its impact on the financial system. But both Democrats and Republicans say the watchdog agency isn’t granted enough access to records to properly perform that function.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) offered an amendment to the bill — which unanimously passed — that also gives the GAO the temporary authority to audit credit facilities of the Federal Reserve.

The amendment, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said, “provides us with a modicum of accountability, keeps Congress informed and keeps taxpayers informed.—

In the same hearing, the committee also unanimously passed the D.C. Hatch Act Reform Act, a bill introduced by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) that would require the city to operate under local law rather than the Federal Hatch Act.

Right now, the city is technically supposed to follow the federal law, which puts certain limitations on political activity. The bill would require the District to write its own Hatch law.

Opening Congress’ World. Senate appropriators followed in the footsteps of their House counterparts last week and questioned why a foreign exchange program is funded through the legislative branch appropriations bill.

Founded by Librarian of Congress James Billington, the Open World Leadership Center hosts emerging leaders from Eurasian countries and has been funded by Congress for almost a decade.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, has repeatedly questioned why the program is in Congress’ budget.

On Thursday, members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch asked the same question, but it seemed more a formality than a serious worry.

Ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) asked Open World Executive Director John O’Keefe why the State Department or other executive entities couldn’t fund the well-respected program. But she stopped short of saying it didn’t belong on Congress’ dime.

Instead, she encouraged the organization to continue to seek out private partnerships and donations to help with its $15 million budget. O’Keefe said the program attracts more participants by being under Congress but promised to continue to seek out other funding streams.

It appears he may not have to worry for this year, at least. Chairman Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said after the hearing that he fully supports the program and its place in the legislative branch budget. Billington, he said, is a “national treasure— whose Russia expertise and involvement in the program is an asset to Congress.

“There are so many reasons to do this,— he said. “We just need to find an appropriate way to fund it.—

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