LEGISLATIVE BRANCH APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 22, 2005)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from California for yielding me this time.
I wanted to speak on this bill and in support of this bill. As a former chairman of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee, I had the honor of serving as the chairman, along with the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Moran) as ranking member, and during our period of time, holding the gavel for this, we did a lot of reforms, and I think we worked very closely with groups that are well used but underappreciated, such as the Office of Compliance or the Library of Congress or the Government Printing Office. We tried to work with these agencies and come up with some reforms that we thought were helpful, and ideas, and we worked for them.
I wanted to say to the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey) we did a lot of work on the Capitol Visitors Center. I think we had a lot of good suggestions. Many of those suggestions were adopted by the House in our bill, but unfortunately as the bill progressed through the Chambers and got on the other side, the other body insisted on doing things which we thought could have addressed some of the concerns which he has raised today.
So I want to say the House is on record as trying to get a grip on the Capitol Visitors Center, unfortunately without the cooperation of the Senate.
Another group that we have had a lot of, I will say, growing pains with is the Capitol Hill Police. There are a lot of concerns about making the Capitol campus a fortress. As we walk up here with the eighth grade class from home to be greeted by officers with machine guns on the House steps, it is a little much; and this is something that we have a good discussion about on a Member-to-Member basis, how much security should we have?
The Chief of Police has suggested in the past, several times, that we build a wall all around the Capitol, to which, on a bipartisan basis, we have rejected the notion; and yet a wall is not just made out of bricks and mortars but can, in fact, be made out of human beings, and I think to some degree we do have that boundary right now.
And that is why it is perplexing to me that the Chief of Police would insist on a mounted horse unit, a unit which the House had decided was not cost efficient in the past and had cut out. This year the bill does not fund the horse mounted unit, and I think that it should remain that way. I know that there is going to be an amendment to restore it, but if we look at the strategic plan of the Capitol Hill Police, they do not even mention their own horse mounted unit. In fact, to quote the GAO report, it says: ``Upon review of the draft United States Capitol Hill Police Strategic Plan for FY 2004 to 2008, and the United States Capitol Threat Assessment, it is unclear how the horse mounted unit supports the Capitol Hill Police strategic mission or how the horse mounted unit would be deployed against threats to the Capitol, because there is no mention of the horse mounted unit in the documents.''
The point is that if the Capitol Hill Police feel that the horses are so important, why are they not mentioning it in their strategic plan? Last year during the debate on this, it was suggested they are better for crowd control. But we do not have crowd control problems here at the Capitol. We do not have demonstrations. We do not have rock concerts. We do not have large masses of people who are coming out to watch or participate in an exhibit. We do have lines of people. We do have lots of people, but mounted police are used best on queuing up large groups of people and pushing back crowds, and that is a threat that we just frankly do not have.
But what is the cost of this? Their budget calls for $145,000, they say, and we get free rent. But they do not mention that the stable for these horses is 20 miles away from the United States Capitol and that each day not only do the horses have to commute, and Members know what stress that must be on the horses because, good gosh, we have to put up for that, and I do not remember the horses being allowed to get on the Metro system.
But in addition to the horses having to commute, so does the manure. That is right. We have a gigantic pooper-scooper program for the mounted horses, that not only do they come here commuting like the rest of us, but then somebody has to follow behind them, I guess with a baggy from Safeway, as they do in the neighborhoods down in Alexandria. But they have to haul manure off campus at a cost, Mr. Chairman, of $53,000 a year. And for what? To keep some guys on horses in a very tight, small area. This is not acres and acres of land that goes all the way to the Washington Monument. This is a confined area called the United States Capitol.
This is just one of the reforms that this House has gone on record of supporting. This bill does support it now. I think that we should pass the bill as it has been passed by the committee.
I do want to say one other thing. I am supporting the bill. I do think that the committee has done a good job on continuing a lot of the reforms that are in it.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT