Shutdown Causes Long Waits at House Office Buildings

Posted October 1, 2013 at 11:48am

Staffers, interns, maintenance employees and lobbyists felt the first effects of Congress’ lapse in appropriations Tuesday morning, as they waited in long lines for security screenings to enter House office buildings.

By 9 a.m., the line to enter the Cannon Building stretched down New Jersey Avenue Southeast, around the corner and up C Street Northeast. Hands holding smartphones popped up above the line occasionally, as those waiting attempted to share photos of the scene.

Shutdown procedures for entering House office buildings were announced by the House Administration Committee. According to its guidance, “Only one door to each House Office Building will be open. Members and staff will be directed to the front of all lines.”

Close to the door, the Cannon que split into two separate lanes. Capitol Police waved those in the outside track with staff badges inside in large batches, creating stop-and-go flows, while the inner line of lobbyists moved gradually. Some leaned casually on the railing.

“Every day this line takes me two minutes,” said one intern on a House Democrat’s staff, as he clocked 25 minutes of waiting.

The intern stood about 30 feet from the door, behind a full-time Democratic House staffer, who said he normally drives to work and enters through the garage entrance. He couldn’t park there Tuesday, because the shutdown closed all House-side parking except the Rayburn and Ford garages, plus lots 1 and 4.

An Architect of the Capitol employee who waited calmly about 10 feet from the door faced a big task once she got inside. She would work to clean the three House office buildings with a shutdown-slimmed staff. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it all,” she said.

Down the street, a Capitol Police officer stationed on the C Street and New Jersey Avenue Southeast stairs of Longworth fielded staffers’ questions about alternate entrances. Staffers glanced at the line to Longworth, stretching past the C Street loading dock by 9:15 a.m., then approached to ask if the Capitol doors were open.

“Yes, you can [enter] over there,” the officer confirmed.

Minutes later, a Capitol Police officer on mountain bike patrol showed up at the intersection of South Capitol and C streets Southeast to direct employees to the Rayburn horseshoe entrance.

“There’s no line right now,” he announced, sending a flock of employees to the door. The open Rayburn door is equipped with two screening stations — double the metal detectors and X-ray scanners of Longworth and Cannon.

“You’re welcome to give it a try,” he said.

Shutdown procedures for entering the Capitol campus will be in place until a continuing resolution agreement is reached.