Congress claws back hiring and firing power for the Capitol building’s top manager

Congress claws back hiring and firing power for the Capitol building’s top manager

Congress will soon have the sole power to hire and fire the architect of the Capitol, clawing back longtime presidential authority over a sweeping role that oversees everything from historical tours to buildings, grounds and some security.

The conferenced version of the annual defense policy bill includes text of an amendment from Senate Rules and Administration Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that would change how the architect of the Capitol is hired and fired, making it a Congress-only process and cutting out presidential involvement.

“This bill is a win. Passing the AOC Appointment Act will bring greater accountability to our oversight of legislative branch entities,” House Administration Chair Bryan Steil told POLITICO in a statement. “This bill gives Congress the sole responsibility in selecting new leadership and, when necessary, the authority to hold bad actors accountable.”

“Given the far-reaching scope of the role, it’s essential for Congress to have the authority to appoint and remove the architect through a bipartisan, majority vote,” Klobuchar added.

The timing is crucial, as the search is already underway for a new architect of the Capitol. Brett Blanton was ousted in February after infuriating lawmakers with testimony about avoiding Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021, and a damning inspector general’s report that alleged misuse of his authority.

A bicameral, bipartisan commission of 14 lawmakers, which is already assembling candidates to present to the president, would simply choose the new architect by bipartisan majority vote. The same group could remove the architect.

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