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Sens Press Capitol Architect On Staff Tours

Turns out those staff-led tours of the Capitol have some powerful allies, including 41 senators who are lobbying to save them.

In the wake of articles in both Politico and Roll Call, the senators—among them Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)—wrote Stephen F. Ayers, acting architect of the Capitol, urging him not to eliminate the tours. The senators’ letter was sent 10 days after 148 House lawmakers sent their own version.

“As you know, staff-led tours are a long-standing tradition of constituent services provided by our offices,” the senators' letter reads. “The feedback we receive from our constituents prove that this service is among the most appreciated and educational of the Washington, D.C. experience.”

The issue first arose during a Visitor Center information session in May in which congressional staffers learned there was a “working assumption” that staff-led tours would be eliminated once the Visitor Center was completed. Afterwords, Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) passed around the House letter to keep the tours.

Ayers didn’t help matters when he testified at a Sept. 25 oversight hearing of the House Appropriations Legislative Sub Committee, deviating from earlier testimony during which he had ensured the panel that the tours were not in danger.

A spokesperson for the Architect of the Capitol’s office could not be reached for comment.

- Richard T. Cullen