What’s That Smell in the Senate?

Jan 26, 2010 12:16pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: There’s something stinky on Capitol Hill today. And it’s not just the partisan rancor. Sen. Chuck Schumer, arriving for a press conference on the third floor of the Capitol Building, likened the odor to fish. “Is somebody having lox?” he asked reporters on-camera. Others found the smell more offensive, with comparisons drawn to old garbage, smelly tires, and things that shouldn’t be put in print. The entire building was not affected – the odor is focused on meeting rooms on the second floor of the building and the Radio and TV Gallery, where broadcast reporters toil on the third floor and in what used to be an attic. While the reporters are stuck at their work stations, Democratic Senators have moved their party policy lunch – a weekly strategy pow-wow and catered buffet usually held in a closed room just off the Senate floor – underground into the Capitol Visitors Center rather than dine amid the odor. ABC has not independently confirmed that the smell is the sole reason for moving the lunch, but reporters were scratching their heads trying to recall another time when the lunch was not held on the second floor, just off the Senate floor. According to Eva Malecki, the spokesperson for the Architect of the Capitol’s office, the culprit has been identified. What caused the plugged noses? Bad HVAC. An Air handling unit with accumulated moisture, she said, caused some insulation to be waterlogged. The smell arose and the air handling unit spread it throughout parts of the building. Malecki said the unit has been turned off and is being cleaned. UPDATE:
It should be noted that the subterranean meeting room where Democrats will now hold their lunch pow-wow is located in the recently-opened Capitol Visitors Center, which is gaining a reputation as a haven from foul odors. At the ribbon cutting in December of 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inarticulately described the benefits of the visitors center as allowing tourists to get out of the muggy Washington heat in the summer. “You can always tell when it is summertime because you can smell the visitors,” he said at the time. “The visitors stand out in the high humidity, heat, and they sweat. There is no place for them to go,” he said. The CVC, as it is known, cost more than $600 million to construct over and includes space not only for visitors, but for lawmakers’ offices, TV studios and more. While the CVC was criticized at its opening as an example of government largesse, it has been open for a little more than a year and made the building far more accessible for tourists.

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