Nearly two dozen House Republicans on Wednesday called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reopen the Capitol complex to the public, charging COVID-19 is being used as a “pretext” to have “control over every aspect of American life.”
In a letter signed by Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., and 22 other Republicans, the group decried the closure of “a shrine to the greatest republic in the history of the world” for a year and a half.
“You continue to prevent easy access to the American people,” the lawmakers wrote. “Ordinary Americans who wish to visit the People’s House — which their tax dollars maintain — are entirely shut out and may only view the buildings from afar. This is the People’s House, but the American people are not allowed to enter,” wrote the Republican lawmakers.
In a statement, Comer pointed to vaccines, treatments, and testing that’s all available to visitors, yet the Capitol Visiter Center is closed to the public and tours are prohibited.
According to the Republican group, an “extended closure” has had consequences on Americans’ constitutional rights.
“Citizens who wish to visit the Capitol complex to exercise their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, peaceably to assemble, or to petition the Government are prohibited from readily doing so,” they wrote.
“While the Constitution strictly prohibits Congress from passing a law infringing these rights, you appear to have usurped our founding document by prohibiting exercise of these rights through an authoritarian decree,” the letter states.
“COVID-19 has become the pretext by which Democrats attempt to assert control over every aspect of American life. It is well past time to reopen the House of Representatives, and we urge you to open it immediately so all Americans may once again fully participate in our great democracy.”
The one-two punch of the coronavirus pandemic that shuttered the Capitol’s doors in the spring of 2020 and a violent protest after a Jan. 6 rally by then-President Donald Trump has left the icon of American democracy unopen to all but a select few.
The letter comes as the Biden administration is now dealing with a surge of COVID-19’s omicron variant while keeping a promise there would not be a mass lockdown of schools or businesses.