Don't Let Denny Build His Walkway

Taxpayers have been walked over long enough, and now House Speaker Denny Hastert wants to build a sidewalk to make that even easier.

When Congress returns next week from a week-long vacation, the House and Senate are poised to resume their bickering about a $60,000 walkway that Hastert wants to build on the east side of the U.S. Capitol, currently closed for construction of the a massive visitors’ center.

At a time when Republicans are at least trying to make an effort to rein in government largess, the idea of a temporary walkway is foolish. Defenders of Hastert’s plan say that it would give visitors to the Capitol a view of the building, but spending any money on this project—even if it’s a measly $60,000—is too much.

Hastert, as the leader of House Republicans, is sending the wrong message to his colleagues. The Washington Post described Hastert as “passionate” about the plan. The newspaper quoted one House Republican: “It’s so the American people get a view of all sides of the Capitol. They deserve to have a walkway to see it.”

The American people deserve to have a walkway? This unnamed Republican aide seems to be forgetting that there’s a perfectly usable sidewalk running along 1st Street, home to the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, just across the street from the Capitol. We find it hard to believe that visitors are clamoring for another sidewalk.

Fortunately, some critics of the plan in the Senate aren’t letting Hastert have his way. They see the walkway as a spot for Hastert and his colleagues to capitalize on photo opportunities in front of the Capitol steps. As the Post reported, the walkway’s six-foot fence mysteriously drops to about four feet by the steps, a perfect height for members to have their picture taken with constituents.

The Senate also pegs the price at $95,000—which probably isn’t out of the ballpark given the over-budget and long-delayed Capitol Visitor Center. In fact, construction on the visitors’ center is another concern. With trucks coming in an out of the Capitol grounds, adding a walkway would only complicate matters.

And besides, why would any member of Congress want to show off the taxpayer-funded boondoggle known as the Capitol Visitors Center? With that project’s cost approaching $584 million, it shows that even some Republicans have no shame.

Don’t let Denny Hastert add to the largess. Contact your congressman today and tell him not waste your money on a walkway.