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Acting AOC, who stepped in after scandal, set to depart that role

Congressional commission in the process of selecting a new permanent architect of the Capitol

Chere Rexroat, acting architect of the Capitol, prepares to testify at a Senate Rules and Administration Committee and House Administration Committee joint oversight hearing in July.
Chere Rexroat, acting architect of the Capitol, prepares to testify at a Senate Rules and Administration Committee and House Administration Committee joint oversight hearing in July. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The chief engineer who stepped in as acting architect of the Capitol in the wake of a scandal almost a year ago plans to return to just her previous role as soon as this week, according to three sources familiar with the move.

Chere Rexroat took over the top position in February 2023 after President Joe Biden fired the previous leader of the agency, J. Brett Blanton, for a wide range of transgressions.

In the ensuing months, Rexroat forced out five top aides, who have since filed discrimination complaints against the agency that paint a picture of bitter office strife among the agency leadership.

Joseph D. Morelle, D-N.Y., the ranking member on the House Administration Committee, said she has done a great job as the acting AOC.

“I think she’s really stepped up and stabilized an organization that clearly had some challenges,” Morelle said. “I think she wants to go back to doing her job as an engineer. And I think that from her perspective, she kind of did what she came to do. And it’s time to go back to what she was doing.”

Rexroat led the AOC, which oversees the 570 acres of Capitol complex grounds and 18.4 million square feet of buildings, as it navigates the Cannon House Office Building renovation project and implements many post-Jan. 6, 2021, security improvements.

Rexroat worked both as the acting AOC and as chief engineer over the past year. As chief engineer, she oversees major projects in House construction, historic preservation and engineering planning.

A new acting head will serve until a more permanent leader is selected, a process that is getting close to wrapping up within the next two months, sources familiar with the interview process say.

Morelle said he expects the AOC selection process to be finished in “the next couple of weeks.”

This is the first time Congress will use its new power to hire the leader of the AOC, who previously was nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Congress passed a measure, in the wake of the firing of Blanton, to allow a congressional commission to decide who runs the agency by a majority vote. The commission is made up of the speaker and House minority leader, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Rules Committee, House Administration Committee and the Appropriations committees in both chambers.

Blanton, who was appointed to the 10-year term by former President Donald Trump in 2019, was removed as AOC in the wake of an inspector general’s report that alleged ethical breaches.

That included Blanton costing taxpayers nearly $14,000 by misusing his government-issued vehicle, which was intended solely for work-to-home travel; leading prohibited private tours of the Capitol while it was closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic; and misrepresenting himself as a law enforcement officer, the report said.

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