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Schumer Gets In Another Plug to Repair the Dome

Sen. Charles E. Schumer wants the House to sign off on $61 million to continue restoration of the aging Capitol Dome, which Senate appropriators endorsed earlier this year in a split from their counterparts in the other chamber.

As the year draws to a close, it looks like this pet effort might not pay off. The New York Democrat, however, is not letting the legislative session end without one last opportunity to remind his colleagues about the issue, albeit with a measure of subtlety.

In his capacity as chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Schumer announced Thursday that the theme for the 2013 festivities will be “Faith in America’s Future.”

The peaceful transfer of power and celebration of American Democracy, Schumer said, is an occasion on which to “take measure of how far we have come, and look towards our future with hope and determination.”

It’s also an opportunity, said a release announcing the theme, to honor the 150th anniversary of the placement of the Statue of Freedom on top of the Dome.

“When the Civil War threatened to bring construction of the Dome to a halt, workers pressed onward, even without pay, until Congress approved additional funding to complete the Dome that would be a symbol of unity and democracy to the entire world,” according to the release. “The official Inaugural Program, Luncheon, and other activities will reflect that theme.”

In the midst of war, death and uncertainty, the release continued, the Dome’s completion came to stand for the nation’s endurance.

“If people see the Capitol going on,” President Abraham Lincoln said at the time, “it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.”

The Architect of the Capitol says it needs $61 million to move into the second phase of restoring the historic structure, which after 150 years of weather damage suffers from at least 1,300 known cracks that threaten its structural integrity. Some lawmakers, such as Schumer, have argued that the longer it takes for the money to come through the pipeline, the more money the project will cost and the more dangerous conditions will become.

In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, in late August, Schumer appealed for the other chamber to approve the money.

“It would be a national embarrassment if partisan gridlock allows this iconic work of architecture to fall into a state of permanent decay,” Schumer said.

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