WASHINGTON – A House subcommittee Thursday considered selling the House annex building on First Street SE, in what some Republicans said would be “a symbolic gesture” of reducing government surplus.
The building is home to the Capitol Hill Child Care Center, which cares for 52 children of House members. It also houses the architect of the Capitol, George White, and a few engineers.
Three House Republicans – Reps. Jim Nussle of Iowa, Robert Franks of New Jersey and Samuel Brownback of Kansas – proposed the sale to reduce the deficit with minimal interruption of government activities. Nussle said the sale could save the government $400,000.
“When you look at a $1.5 trillion deficit, it is a drop in the bucket. But to the people, all the nickels and dimes add up,” Nussle said.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a Kennedyville Republican and chairman of a Public Works and Transportation subcommittee, and Ohio Rep. James Traficant Jr., the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, will draft a bill detailing how to sell the building, a spokeswoman for Gilchrest said.
But some members of the subcommittee on public buildings and economic development said they were skeptical of the motives for selling the building.
“This whole zeroing in on this building is starting to sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas,” said Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn. “I don’t know what good will come out of selling this building, but not a whole heck of a lot.”
And parents stopped outside the center said they were concerned it could be moved too far away or closed.
“If the House eliminates House day care and doesn’t give workers a chance to find a place to send their kids, where am I going to send my baby?” asked Debbie Simpson, an assistant to Rep. Major Owens, D-New York, and mother of a 3-and-1/2-year-old daughter attending the center.
Nancy Gitelman, director of the day care center, told members of the subcommittee she supports a move to the House’s Ford Building, at 300 D St., SW. It has more space and better security, she said. The building is one of several proposed sites for the relocation.
White said his office could move to the Ford Building also.
A representative for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans asked that the House annex building be sold to it at a discount, or given as a donation. It wants to convert the building into a homeless shelter.
D.C. Council member Harold Brazil, a Democrat, said he opposed using the building for a shelter, or for drug treatment or a jail. He said he did not want the value of homes in the neighborhood to drop.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, said he had nothing to fear. She said the building would probably not be sold to homeless advocates because the majority of Congress would not give anything to those less fortunate. -30-