Last week, the effort to disassemble the giant wall around the United States Capitol Building began. While this is an important step as our nation returns to normal, the Capitol itself remains closed to the public with no signs of reopening soon. Since pandemic shutdowns in the United States began back in March of 2020, the Capitol has been completely closed off to the public. Never in its 228-year existence has the Capitol been closed for this long – not even during the War of 1812, the Civil War, the 1918 Spanish Flu or in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
With vaccines available to anyone who wants one and the entire country opening back up, there is no good reason to keep the People’s House closed off from the people. Americans have a guaranteed right in the First Amendment to “assemble peaceably and to petition their government,” but this is completely impossible when Congress continues operating behind locked doors.
Across the country, weekly case numbers and hospitalizations are at their lowest point since March of 2020, so there is no valid reason to use health concerns as a reason to keep the Capitol closed. Not a single member of Congress or congressional staffer is known to have tested positive for COVID-19 in several months, plus the Office of the Attending Physician has vaccinated almost 90% of House members and staff. This vaccination rate far exceeds the percentage defined by health experts as the threshold for reaching herd immunity.
Most states have fully reopened and returned to normal, and Washington, D.C., lifted all COVID restrictions last month. Folks are able to safely gather in their places of worship, at sporting events, museums, etc., but they are still unable to step foot inside the Capitol. This is a total leadership failure by Speaker Pelosi and her Democratic majority, and it is an unhealthy and inefficient way for our Republic to operate.
Until the American people once again have access to petition their government and hold their leaders accountable, I will continue fighting against Speaker Pelosi’s efforts to keep the Capitol closed. I was proud to join 135 of my Republican colleagues last month on a letter to Speaker Pelosi strongly urging her to fully reopen the House. Although she has refused to respond or take any appropriate action, we will continue pushing back until the Capitol returns to normal operations and our First Amendment rights are restored.
Jerry Carl represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He lives in Mobile with his wife Tina.