More Than $30 Million Needed For Capitol Repairs, New Security After Assault, Officials Say


Wednesday, February 24th 2021, 7:43 pm
By: CBS News


Cleaning up broken glass, doors and graffiti and securing the U.S. Capitol after the January 6 attack will cost more than $30 million, Capitol staff told lawmakers Wednesday. 

"Statues, murals, historic benches and original shutters all suffered varying degrees of damage, primarily from pepper spray accretions and residue from chemical irritants and fire extinguishers," Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton said at a House Appropriations Committee Hearing, according to his prepared testimony. "This damage to our precious artwork and statues will require expert cleaning and conservation." 

House Lawmakers have already approved $30 million to address the expenses described by Blanton, whose office is responsible for the operations and care of the group of buildings that make up the Capitol complex, as well as to fund the perimeter fencing that has been constructed around the Capitol. 

Blanton has said more money would likely be needed, especially if his office needs to renew contracts to continue the fencing past March 31st. He is also requesting a comprehensive, campus-wide security assessment. 

His employees had just finished painting parts of the platform where President Joe Biden was set to be inaugurated on the day of the January 6 attacks, Blanton said. When rioters began storming the Capitol, his staff sheltered some Congressional employees in their workshops while other team members went to the roof of the building to reverse the airflows to clear out chemical irritants like bear repellant and pepper spray that were released inside. 

Blanton, who is a member of the Capitol Police Board that oversees requests from the U.S. Capitol Police, told lawmakers that he never received a request from former USCP Chief Steven Sund for an emergency declaration or National Guard support. He also said that Sund did not share "actionable intelligence or credible threats" at a briefing he hosted for law enforcement partners prior to January 6th. 

Testifying before senators investigating the attack on Tuesday, Sund blamed the intelligence community for failing to notify his force and others about the potential for violence that day. 

Damage was not limited to the building's exterior. Once they breached the building, rioters swarmed through hallways and offices containing some of the 219 pieces of art and other items in the House collection that are on display in the building. 

Eight different marble and granite busts of former House speakers and notable figures, as well as portraits of James Madison and John Quincy Adams and a statue of Thomas Jefferson, were among the items identified as having potential damage. That damage includes yellow residue from fire extinguisher discharge that can damage the marble. House Curator Farar Elliott asked lawmakers for an additional $25,000 to support emergency repair and conservation of damaged items. 

Farar also praised House employees for saving other objects. "Quick thinking by a journal clerk secured the House's 1819 silver inkstand, the oldest object in the Chamber. Sergeant at Arms staff evacuated the Mace from the Chamber," he said. 

The January 6th attacks have also left lasting emotional scars on the people who work in the Capitol complex. House Chief Administrative Office Catherine Szpindor, whose office runs the House Employee Assistance program, said her counselors have had 1,150 interactions with employees, managers and members of the House since the attacks. If that trend continues, she testified, that would constitute a 200% increase over more "typical" recent years prior to the pandemic.