Campus Notebook: President nominates pick for Architect of the Capitol

The Cannon House Office Building renovation will be a tough issue to grapple with for Blanton. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The Cannon House Office Building renovation will be a tough issue to grapple with for Blanton. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 9, 2019 at 6:22pm

President nominates pick for Architect of Capitol

President Donald Trump on Monday nominated J. Brett Blanton to be the next Architect of the Capitol for a 10-year stint.

If confirmed by the Senate, Blanton would provide stability to the helm of an agency that has been led by a succession of acting directors. Christine Merdon, an acting director, announced her resignation in August and was replaced by Thomas Carroll, who worked in the same capacity. The Architect of the Capitol is responsible for maintaining the facilities on the Capitol complex as well as renovations.

Blanton has over 25 years of experience in facilities operations and construction management, most recently as deputy vice president for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, said Blanton is the right person for the job.

“The Architect of the Capitol oversees more than 18 million square feet of facilities and 570 acres of grounds on the Capitol campus,” said Blunt. “It’s no small task and I believe Brett Blanton brings the right skill set and leadership experience to the job. I look forward to hearing more from Brett about his plans to strengthen the AOC as his nomination moves forward.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the chairperson of the House Administration Committee, congratulated Blanton on the nomination.

“I congratulate Mr. Blanton on his nomination to serve as Architect of the Capitol,” Lofgren said.

Rep. Rodney Davis, the ranking member of the House panel, also voiced his support for the pick.

“This nomination comes at a crucial time during the Cannon House Office Building Renewal Project, which is the largest project undertaken in the history of the agency,” said the Illinois Republican.

Blanton will have to grapple with a Cannon building renovation project already behind schedule, which could go $100 million over budget.

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 14: Hugh Halpern, nominee to serve as Director of the Government Publishing Office, shows off a copy of “Robert's Rules of Order” as takes his seat to testify during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on Thursday, November 14, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Hugh Halpern was confirmed to head the Government Publishing Office last week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate confirms Government Publishing Office director

Hugh Halpern was confirmed Dec. 4 to be director of the Government Publishing Office via voice vote. He is the 28th person to lead the agency tasked with producing government documents, including U.S. passports and the Congressional Record, since it opened in 1861.

“I am honored and humbled to have been nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate to lead this historic and vital enterprise,” Halpern said in a statement. “I look forward to working alongside the dedicated men and women of GPO to carry out our mission of Keeping America Informed and meeting the needs of our customers in all three branches of the federal government.”

Halpern has 30 years of experience working on Capitol Hill, notably as director of floor operations for former Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the highest-ranking floor staffer in the House and Ryan’s chief adviser on procedural matters.

The Government Publishing Office has been hampered by instability at the helm since 2017. Robert Tapella was nominated by President Donald Trump in 2018, but he was never confirmed and was eventually withdrawn from consideration. Davita Vance-Cooks was the last Senate-confirmed director of the agency, who left in October 2017.

Death in the Capitol Visitor Center

Joan Madewell, an employee in the Capitol Visitor Center gift shop, died Nov. 29 at work. She had worked there since September and was known as a “wonderful colleague” and for her “spot-on sense of humor and infectious laugh,” according to an email shared with employees. Madewell is survived by a son who serves in the U.S. armed forces in Korea.

“We are all saddened by Joan Madewell’s sudden passing Friday, November 29 at the Capitol Visitor Center. Joan was found unresponsive by a colleague,” said Tom Casey, a spokesman for the Capitol Visitor Center. “911 was called and she was given CPR by the U.S. Capitol Police until the arrival of DC Emergency Medical Services. The DC Emergency Medical Services team took over from USCP and continued to provide CPR and other medical support. Unfortunately, those efforts were unsuccessful.”

Casey did not provide the cause of death.