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House Republicans call for Blanton’s removal as Architect of the Capitol over alleged misdeeds

Lawmakers expressed frustration at his inability to respond to specific accusations

Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton allegedly misused a government-issued car and misrepresented himself as a law enforcement officer,  according to an October inspector general report.
Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton allegedly misused a government-issued car and misrepresented himself as a law enforcement officer, according to an October inspector general report. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Calls for Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton’s ouster or resignation are getting louder in the wake of a fiery House Administration hearing earlier this week.

The official House Republican Twitter account on Friday called on President Joe Biden to immediately remove Blanton, who was appointed to the role in 2019. Blanton was the subject of a scalding inspector general report in October highlighting a series of alleged misdeeds and abuses of the office.

Blanton, through the AOC communications department, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

“Joe Biden should immediately FIRE AOC Blanton,” the House GOP tweeted. “He has repeatedly abused taxpayer dollars.”

Blanton allegedly misrepresented himself as a law enforcement officer, led prohibited private tours of the Capitol and repeatedly misused his government-issued vehicle, the inspector general found. The misuse of the vehicle cost taxpayers nearly $14,000, the report stated.

The architect has a wide-ranging role and is responsible for overseeing the maintenance, operation, development and preservation of the Capitol complex. Blanton is answerable to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the House Administration Committee, the latter of which called Blanton to testify Thursday for the first time since the report was published.

Asked about the situation on Friday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “We’re taking this very seriously,” but said she couldn’t add any more information.

House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wis., wasn’t as adamant about removal as his party’s Twitter account.

“He (Blanton) serves at the pleasure of the president. I’m hopeful the president or folks at the White House were able to see the hearing yesterday, and they’ll ultimately make that decision,” Steil told CQ Roll Call. “But there are big changes that are needed in the Architect of the Capitol’s office.”

Ranking member Joseph D. Morelle of New York and Rep. Norma J. Torres of California, the top Democrat on the panel’s Oversight Subcommittee, each called on Blanton to step down Thursday after the hearing.

“Mr. Blanton’s incompetency is a danger to his office,” Torres tweeted, bolstering an earlier statement from Morelle calling on Blanton to resign.

It was the second time lawmakers have called on Blanton to step down. Immediately after the report was released, a group of six, including Senate Rules and Administration Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, similarly called on Blanton to resign.

Though some experts argue Congress has the authority to impeach Blanton, there’s no precedent for removing an AOC and many, like Steil, believe removal requires executive action. The Capitol architect is a legislative branch position appointed by the president.

Klobuchar has followed up her initial campaign against Blanton with legislation that would establish a clear procedure for Congress to remove an AOC either by impeachment or a joint resolution of Congress in the event of “permanent disability, inefficiency, neglect of duty, malfeasance or a felony or conduct involving moral turpitude,” according to the bill text. The bill, introduced Jan. 26 with Senate Rules ranking member Deb Fischer, R-Neb., as co-sponsor, remains in committee.

‘Errors, omissions, mischaracterizations …’

Blanton took a defensive posture at the Thursday hearing, though several members expressed frustration at his inability to respond to specific questions raised by the report.

“I wholeheartedly reject any assertion that I engaged in unethical behavior during my service to this country,” said Blanton, whose 10-year term doesn’t end until 2029.

“The report is filled with errors, omissions, mischaracterizations, misstatements and conclusory statements lacking evidence,” Blanton said, though he repeatedly stated that he’d only read the 10-page summary, as opposed to the full roughly 800-page report.

Torres, who was part of a group of lawmakers stranded in the House Gallery during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, especially took umbrage at Blanton’s disclosure that he wasn’t present at the Capitol on the day of the attack. Blanton said he feared he wouldn’t be able to access the complex “because of the security situation” that day. Instead, Blanton said he worked from his government-issued car, which served as a “mobile command center.”

“I’m outraged that you would be in a comfortable place sir, while the rest of us were thinking about dying that day and how we were going to come out alive that day,” Torres said.

Blanton also took fire for his use of the vehicle, which was intended for work-to-home travel. According to the report, Blanton drove the vehicle as far as South Carolina and Florida and allowed his wife and daughter to drive the SUV. 

Legislative Branch appropriators defunded the AOC’s vehicle for the current fiscal year in the 4,155-page spending bill that became law in December.

Blanton acknowledged his wife and daughter operated the vehicle with him as a passenger, but couldn’t say definitively whether they drove the SUV without him present. 

“That would be something that would have to be discussed with them,” Blanton said.

“Well, you’re not suggesting we bring members of your family in to testify before us, are you?” Morelle asked.

“No,” Blanton responded.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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