Refurbished elevators lift some eyebrows

January 25, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- House members who returned to the Capitol this week concerned about potential election-year downers had to look no farther than the floor beneath their feet on three "members only" elevators.

In each, old carpet-covered floors had been replaced with elegant black-and-white marble. The cost: $6,000 per elevator.

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said Thursday that the new floors could prompt an outcry over congressional profligacy during hard times. Mr. Lewis raised the issue at a meeting of the House Appropriations subcommittee that handles Congress' own budget.

"Nobody knew about it," Mr. Lewis said later in an interview. "It certainly raises the sirens' song around here that suggests reform is appropriate."

Such issues seem particularly pertinent in light of the enormous federal deficit and disclosures last year that many lawmakers had written overdrafts at a House bank, which was subsequently closed, and run up unpaid bills at the House dining room.

The floors were paid for from an account controlled by House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash. Jeffrey R. Biggs, Mr. Foley's spokesman, said that they are part of "an ongoing effort to renovate and refurbish the Capitol. In both the architect and the speaker's mind, this is the people's Capitol, in which they should take a certain amount of pride."

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