Capitol Hill Buzz: Congress resolves to flee DC pre-snow

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Posted: Mar 04, 2015 8:43 PM
Capitol Hill Buzz: Congress resolves to flee DC pre-snow

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nothing gets Congress moving like the forecast of snow.

The House, followed by the Senate Wednesday, reached rare bipartisan agreement on the desire of lawmakers to beat a forecast snowstorm out of town. The town being Washington, D.C., where anything white falling from the sky disrupts schools, the federal government, air traffic and roads. Congress wants no part of the chaos, at least this week, when up to eight inches is forecast to fall on the region early Thursday morning.

Better, the House resolved Tuesday, to pass a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security and adjourn. The Senate Wednesday concurred, calling a vote to override President Barack Obama's veto of legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Senate leaders set the last vote of the week for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. But that wasn't good enough for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., known as the chamber's most vocal denier of man-made climate change.

"Is there any way you could change that to 2:20 from 2:30?" Inhofe asked on the Senate floor. "There are four people who can't make planes, otherwise."

With no objection from minority Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed.

"So for the information of all senators, the vote on the veto override will occur at 2:20 and senators should be in the chamber and prepared to vote from their seats," the Kentucky Republican announced. "This will be the last roll call vote of the week."

The House announced a day earlier that it would be out of session Thursday and Friday, in advance of a home district work session next week.

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With snow, of course, comes sledding, and the long sloping grounds of the Capitol are perfect for it. But Capitol Police rules prevent it.

Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s non-voting representative to Congress, wants to change that.

She sent a letter to the Capitol Police Board on Wednesday requesting a waiver of the sledding ban from March 5-8.

"Have a heart," Norton said. "This could be the last snowstorm the D.C. area gets this winter, and may be one of the best for sledding in years. Children and their parents should able to enjoy sledding on one of the best hills in the city."

She found an ally in Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., who announced his support for his request over Twitter.

But Capitol police said no, citing liability issues and the risk of injuries on public property.

Frank Larkin, Chairman of the Capitol Police Board, said he couldn't lift the no-sledding rule.

"If the forecast holds true, there are many families who will want to enjoy the snow tomorrow," he said in a statement Wednesday night. "Although, for security reasons, the Capitol grounds are not your typical neighborhood hill or playground."

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Reid is well known for the occasional gaffe. He is playing it safe — very safe — when it comes to the controversy over Hillary Rodham Clinton's use of a personal email account while serving as secretary of state.

"That is something that I'm not making a comment on. Period. Zero," Reid told reporters from The Associated Press Wednesday during an interview in his Capitol office.

"You can twist my arm, put me in a headlock and I'm not going to answer any more than just what I said."

No such maneuver was attempted and the interview moved on to other topics.

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Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.