[Congressional Record Volume 154, Number 58 (Monday, April 14, 2008)]
[Page S2956]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                         CAPITOL VISITOR CENTER

  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I had the good fortune, earlier today, to 
have the first visit in a long time to the new Capitol Visitor Center.
  When I first came to Washington many years ago and served as a 
Capitol policeman, every evening in the summer part of my duty was to 
go out on the east front of the Capitol and watch things. I can 
remember having many fond memories, such as watching Carl Hayden in his 
wheelchair watching those concerts. Even back then, I thought, gee, 
this is such a beautiful place.
  The east front of the Capitol is so much easier for visitors coming 
to the Capitol to see than the west front because there are not those 
big steps. Before, it didn't look very nice. The blacktop covered that 
place. That just didn't look right--with cars parked there and oil 
spilled from the cars.
  I had the good fortune, in the third year that I was a Senator, to 
become chairman of the Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee. 
Back then, the reason I was able to do it was Senator Bumpers simply 
didn't want to do it. It was a great experience for me. I started 
working to do something to make the east front of the Capitol a little 
more visually nice. We did a number of things. First, we got the cars 
  With the help of many other Senators, we were able to finally get 
legislative permission to do something about it in a big way. The 
culmination of our being able to do that was when two police officers 
were killed on the House side, on the east front of the Capitol. That 
gave us the impetus to fund the project the way it should be funded. We 
did that. Now that is just great. It is so wonderful.
  The Capitol Visitor Center is the eighth major expansion of the 
Capitol in its 214-year history. The last one was out here on the east 
front of the Capitol for the rooms we have there for holding meetings. 
This facility out here is almost 600,000 square feet of space. It is 
equivalent in size to the current footprint of the Capitol. It consists 
of beautiful sandstone, granite, and marble from 14 different States. 
The Capitol Visitor Center project conforms to ``Buy American'' 
standards. I saw a lot of beautiful things but probably the most 
beautiful on the tour this morning were the historic Olmstead fountains 
and lanterns. They have been beautifully restored and are going to be 
the centerpiece over there.
  Mr. President, if someone wants to visit the Capitol today, there is 
no place for them to gather. It used to be on the east front, and now 
it is on the west front. The people who work here joke about it, 
saying: You can always tell when it is summertime because you can smell 
the visitors. The visitors stand out in the high humidity, heat, and 
they sweat. There is no place for them to go. The bathrooms in this 
facility are almost nonexistent. There is one on each side, and they 
are very small. This visitors center can hold 4,000 visitors at one 
time, and, with 8 magnetometers, they can process 2,000 people an hour. 
It will make this place vastly more secure than it is. We expect as 
many as 3 million visitors a year under the new process we will have 
  When visitors come here now, there is no place for them to eat, no 
place to go to the bathroom, and there are limited places to buy 
souvenirs. With our new facility, there will be a 550-seat cafeteria, 
with a beautiful kitchen that will be as good as anyplace there is in 
our country.
  There is an 18,000-foot exhibition hall that will feature many never-
seen-before historic documents, such as Madison's notes from the 
drafting of the Constitution.
  There are two 250-seat orientation theaters. When people come to the 
Capitol, they will see an 11-minute film that is done so beautifully, 
and it will tell them what they are going to see in the Capitol. That 
is as it should be. Now people walk in and don't know what to expect. 
There is a film they will see called ``Out Of Many, One.'' It will be 
played every 11 minutes.
  There are two beautiful gift shops--one on the House side and one on 
the Senate side--and 26 restaurants. There are meeting rooms for 
constituent meetings. The cost is a lot, about $650 million. But in 
comparison, the Newseum, which was opened this past Friday, cost 
roughly $550 million. It took 7 years to complete, and it did not have 
all the security problems we have had here.
  I congratulate the Office of the Architect of the Capitol. They did a 
wonderful job. Everyone has cooperated. It is a facility of which we 
can all be proud. I enjoyed my visit through it. It will be an added 
feature of this beautiful building, and it will make it so people can 
come here safely and securely and all the many people who work in this 
Capitol and work in these office buildings will also certainly be more 
safe because there is a way to come in and there is adequate security.