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U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger took the blame Wednesday for a phased reopening of the Capitol that has frustrated lawmakers who are eager to make the building more accessible to the public.
Manger told members of the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee that a multistep reopening is necessary to provide more time for him to rebuild a force that was depleted during the Covid-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“We don’t have the staffing to be at all the posts where we were pre-pandemic,” Manger said. “We have more posts now than we had pre-pandemic, we’re staffing posts that didn’t exist two, three years ago.”
Manger said he recommended to Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.) the phased reopening that began Monday with small tours and a limited number of students groups allowed to visit the Capitol. Manger said the Capitol Visitor Center would begin to open around Memorial Day and the Capitol could fully open later in the summer.
“I regret we’re the chokepoint,” he said. “We’re the problem in getting it reopened fully.”
The top Republican on the subcommittee, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), raised concerns that the Capitol was still months away from being fully reopened.
“The goal of reopening should be another priority,” she said.
Manger is asking Congress for $708 million for his police force in the coming year, of which $522 million would be for salaries and benefits.
More Officers Sought
The force is still short about 300 officers and the department is on track to get ahead of attrition and has increased the hiring and training classes, Manger said. He’s requesting an additional 126 officers to bring the total to 2,126. In five years, as many as 2,400 officers might be needed, Manger said.
“One of the problems that caused folks to leave here is the fact we were burning our officers out,” he told lawmakers. “We didn’t have enough cops and we’re holding them over constantly, canceling their days off, forcing them to work overtime.”
Subcommittee Chair Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) told Manger the “continuous rise in threats makes it clear that increases and improvements are needed.”
“As the Capitol campus begins to reopen to the American public, we need to understand the plan for this year, next year, and the future,” Ryan said.
Other lawmakers on the subcommittee also seemed amenable to the request for more funding, including more fiscally conservative members such as Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.).
“It is obviously time for a change,” he said. “And that is going to require some resources.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org