As 200 groups seek access, talks underway to reopen Hill buildings

After pandemic and riot, visitors need appointments to enter

Only visitors with appointments and credentialed staff and media can enter House and Senate office buildings now, but discussions are underway to reopen as   lobbyists press for renewed access. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Only visitors with appointments and credentialed staff and media can enter House and Senate office buildings now, but discussions are underway to reopen as lobbyists press for renewed access. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted March 7, 2022 at 4:31pm

As House and Senate leaders discuss reopening the Capitol complex, a lobbyist trade association plans to hand-deliver a letter Wednesday pressing for access for their clients and tour groups.

As of Monday, the letter had been signed by at least 200 groups, including many that in the past flew members in from around the country to meet with members of Congress and their staffs, according to Paul Miller, founder of the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics. The institute's plan to press its case this week was first reported on Friday.

The letter urged congressional leaders to allow people without appointments to get into House and Senate office buildings that were first closed during the coronavirus pandemic and have remained closed amid heightened security concerns in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot.

[Lobbyists urge lawmakers to let them roam Capitol Hill again]

Congressional leaders may be poised to allow for a return of visitors to the Capitol. A House Democratic aide said the topic came up in a Monday call of chiefs of staff, giving them a heads-up that a “bicameral reopening plan is in the works.”

Currently, lobbyists may conduct in-person meetings on Capitol Hill, as long as a congressional aide signs them in and escorts them around the buildings. Rules are especially strict on the House side, said Miller, a partner with the firm Miller Wenhold Capitol Strategies. It’s a concern he’s held for more than a year.

Miller said the effort wasn’t only about lobbyists. 

“This is about every citizen in this country having the right to petition their government,” he said. “This is about every kid who missed an opportunity through their school field trips to come here and see government in action. This is about every constituent who travels here with their family to meet with their elected officials.  This is about every person who participates in their annual fly-in event.”