This week, PIA joined 250 organizations and individuals in the advocacy profession to urge House and Senate leadership to reopen the Capitol office buildings to the public. The request was organized by the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics (NILE), an organization representing professionals in lobbying, public policy, and government affairs. NILE has been leading its industry in encouraging the reopening of Capitol Hill to the public.
Since the pandemic began two years ago, access to the Capitol complex has been limited. Currently, while it is possible to meet with Congressional offices, security concerns have led to ongoing restrictions. For instance, access now requires an appointment and check-in by security personnel at select entrances. Visitors must wait outside House or Senate buildings until they are met by a congressional staff member, who escorts advocates into the buildings and all the way to their meeting locations. The escort returns for visitors departing a meeting; they are accompanied from the meeting location until they are outside the building. Visitors are not allowed to wander the Capitol complex unescorted by staff.
The result is that in-person meetings are technically possible with some congressional offices, but the experience is difficult for and unfamiliar to many visitors. Moreover, because each congressional office sets its own rules, the accessibility of legislators and their staffs varies greatly around the Capitol.
Earlier this year, PIA kicked off a series of 2022 year-round advocacy events that will give agents the chance to meet with federal policymakers on the issues that matter most to them. Rather than subject PIA members to this heightened level of security, and to maximize the number of offices our members could meet with, we opted to conduct meetings virtually until security measures are reevaluated and adjusted.
Members of PIA support House and Senate leadership taking seriously the safety and security of one another, their staffs, and their constituents. But the time has come to reevaluate these measures and modify existing security restrictions. Doing so will encourage more dialogue among members of Congress, their staffs, and constituents and will encourage the resumption of vital in-person advocacy.