House Cancels Votes for Week as D.C. Digs Out From Blizzard
UPDATED 6:30 p.m. | The weekend’s historic blizzard has forced a delay in the House’s attempt to overcome President Barack Obama’s veto of a rollback of his signature health care law.
As workers around the Capitol began to dig out from the weekend’s snowstorm, it was already clear that travel would be affected into the coming work week, leading House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to inform members Sunday that the next votes for the chamber would be pushed off until Feb. 1.
The Senate changed its own plans later in the day on Sunday, pushing back a vote on on the nomination of Michael Vazquez to be a federal judge in New Jersey from Tuesday afternoon until 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, giving senators another day to travel back to D.C.
Senators will also open debate on a bipartisan energy bill during the week. But, the House’s veto override attempt and other legislative business will have to wait a little longer.
The National Weather Service recorded nearly 30 inches of snow at Dulles and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall airports while the 17.8 inches officially recorded at Reagan National Airport was disputed because of how it was collected . More than 22 inches was recorded at the National Zoo in Northwest D.C.
D.C. officials said crews will continue to dig out over the next several days. Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a Sunday evening news conference that the District government would be closed Monday and crews would continue to clear the major thoroughfares. The Office of Personnel Management also closed federal offices on Monday.
“Continue to stay off of the road,” Bowser urged residents, noting that freezing temperatures over the next few days will result in slick and dangerous conditions.
Snow will be hauled to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Southeast D.C. Residents raised concerns that the melting snow would pollute the nearby Anacostia River, but Department of Energy and Environment Director Tommy Wells, who used to represent Capitol Hill on the D.C. Council, assured the public that a mesh-like fabric would be placed around the site to catch substances plows picked up with the snow, and prevent them from running off into the river.
Meanwhile at the Capitol, Architect of the Capitol crews were working as the sun set over the dome Sunday to clear snow from walkways and roadways, well ahead of the efforts in other parts of downtown D.C.
The House side of Capitol Hill itself has been the dominion of the sledders over the weekend, even at the height of the storm Saturday, when what appeared to be more than 100 anti-abortion activists stranded in the city after Friday’s March for Life descended on the Capitol building with their signs for the march being used as makeshift sleds.
Members of one group from Missouri, sporting matching “Where’s Waldo?” candy cane scarves, told Roll Call outside the Capitol Saturday that they were stuck in the ballroom of a hotel blocks from the Senate office buildings.
Supplies to dig out from the mounds of snow were readily available late Thursday in some locations — a Walgreen’s drug store in D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood had cases upon cases of ice melt and snow shovels — but non-existent in others.
The Architect of the Capitol was, as always, well prepared for getting the complex cleared and back up and running as soon as lawmakers desire to return, having had some 500 tons of salt and 20 tons of deicer ready for the first significant accumulation of winter 2016.
House Democrats were still expected to gather later in the week for an issues retreat at Baltimore’s inner harbor, an area similarly walloped by the blizzard.
Bridget Bowman and Bill Clark contributed to this report.
Contact Lesniewski at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.
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