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Trouble deepens for Architect of the Capitol as Kevin McCarthy calls for firing

Blanton ‘no longer has my confidence to continue in his job,’ speaker says

Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton testifies during a House Administration Committee hearing on Thursday.
Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton testifies during a House Administration Committee hearing on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton’s problems worsened Monday as Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil joined the growing list of lawmakers calling for his resignation.

Blanton, who was appointed to the role by former President Donald Trump in 2019, was called in to testify before the House Administration Committee on Thursday in part to answer for a damning inspector general report, released in October, that alleged a litany of ethical violations. Blanton further angered lawmakers at the hearing by evading questions and admitting that he failed to respond to the Capitol in person on Jan. 6, 2021, when the campus he’s sworn to protect was under siege.

“The Architect of the Capitol, Brett Blanton, no longer has my confidence to continue in his job,” McCarthy tweeted Monday. “He should resign or President Biden should remove him immediately.”

Steil, whose committee is responsible for oversight of the architect, along with the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, followed McCarthy’s tweet with a statement released minutes later.

“The Inspector General’s report was highly concerning, which is, in part, why our first hearing was dedicated to providing oversight over the AOC,” Steil said. “His refusal to be transparent and truthful has made clear that he can no longer lead the organization and must resign immediately.”

Steil initially refrained from calling for Blanton to resign after the Thursday hearing, even as the committee’s ranking member Joe Morelle of New York, along with Democratic Rep. Norma Torres of California, urged the architect to step down.

House Republicans followed on Friday with a call for President Joe Biden to remove Blanton, tweeting “#fireblanton” from the official House GOP account.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Friday’s press briefing, “We’re taking this very seriously,” but did not elaborate.

The Architect of the Capitol is a presidentially-appointed legislative branch employee, which has been the source of confusion among lawmakers and experts as to who has the power to discipline or remove an architect.

Some argue Congress has impeachment power over Blanton, though there is no precedent for the impeachment of an AOC. Others, like House Republicans and Steil, have argued that Biden alone has the power to remove Blanton.

“[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 on Friday.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and was among an initial cadre of lawmakers to call for Blanton’s resignation immediately after the report published, introduced legislation in January to establish a procedure for Congress to remove an AOC. 

The measure would give Congress power to remove an architect either by impeachment or joint resolution and was co-sponsored by Rules ranking member Deb Fischer, R-Neb. That bill remains in committee.

Blanton cost taxpayers nearly $14,000 by misusing his government-issued vehicle, which was intended solely for work-to-home travel, according to the inspector general report. He led prohibited private tours of the Capitol while it was closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic and he allegedly misrepresented himself as a law enforcement officer.

Blanton told House Administration lawmakers that he didn’t think it would be “prudent” to respond to the Capitol on Jan. 6 “because of the security situation,” eliciting outrage from members on both sides of the aisle.

“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 told Blanton at the hearing.

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