News

Symbol of Disrepair: US Capitol Dome Is Falling Apart

by Jillian Steinhauer on September 5, 2012

Constantino Brumidi's "The Apotheosis of Washington"

Constantino Brumidi’s “The Apotheosis of Washington” is painted at the top of the Capitol dome. (image via Architect of the Capitol)

The conventions are here; election season is officially upon us. I figure, since everyone’s already busy having strong opinions and heated discussions about all sorts of political issues, why not throw another one into the mix, something all of us can tweet and roll our eyes and get annoyed about?

Well, the New York Times has just the thing! My doppelgänger Jennifer Steinhauer (no relation) reports that the US Capitol dome, the beloved (in that staid, neoclassical kind of way) symbol of our nation’s political grandeur, is falling apart. The dome currently has 1,300 cracks and breaks caused by years of harsh weather, and water leaked through them has rusted the ornamentation and stained the interior of the Capitol Rotunda. Luckily the fresco at the top of the Rotunda, a work by Constantino Brumidi titled “The Apotheosis of Washington,” hasn’t yet been damaged.

The ailing US Capitol dome

The ailing US Capitol dome (image via Wikipedia)

But the best part of the story is that Congress, like a feuding pair of spouses, can’t find a way to agree to allocate money for repairs. As Steinhauer explains:

While Senate appropriators have voted to repair the dome, which has not undergone major renovations for 50 years, their House counterparts say there is not money right now.

So there are two competing appropriations bills from the two houses, one that funds the dome repair (Senate) and one that doesn’t (House). And they will most likely not be reconciled until after the election. In the meantime, little pieces of the dome — and some not so little, like a “40-pound cast-iron decorative acorn” (!) — continue to break and fall off.

Oh, politics! Maybe now is a good time to revisit Carolina Miranda’s (aka C-Monster) ingenious proposal to outsource Congress. Even if we don’t adopt her suggestion to chuck the whole “pricey neoclassical physical plant” altogether, the money we’d save in outsourcing could help our new, vastly more efficient, replacement Congress repair the damn dome.

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