Newspaper article Roll Call

Senate at Work Won't Stop Memorial Day Concert

Newspaper article Roll Call

Senate at Work Won't Stop Memorial Day Concert

Article excerpt

Despite the impending weekend Senate session, the 26th Annual National Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol will go on -- and that means some inconvenience for congressional staffers and thousands of dollars worth of overtime work for Capitol Police.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Senate was scheduled to be in session and voting Saturday on legislation related to expiring surveillance authorities under the Patriot Act. And a reauthorization of expiring highway authorities was also on track to be unresolved by the weekend.

Still, the event, to honor members of the military, is set to continue without a change, except for likely increased security.

If Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and like-minded lawmakers insist on debate time, the Senate would almost assuredly be in session throughout the weekend, perhaps around the clock. That means senators could still be at work during the Sunday concert at 8 p.m. or the Saturday evening dress rehearsal, which draws some D.C. residents and tourists hoping to see a version of the concert but skip the crowd.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider said the department would manage both in a Thursday email. She declined to comment on overtime costs.

But the show going on as planned could mean big overtime costs for Capitol Police, despite recent efforts to cut the cost of staffing for Capitol Hill's biggest summer celebrations. In 2014, the agency used a combined 12,174 hours of overtime work for the Memorial Day and July Fourth holidays during setup, rehearsals and the concerts themselves. The price tag was $735,252.

In April, top congressional leaders backed a plan from Capitol Hill law enforcement to rein in festivities. The plan endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, limits access to the Capitol building to members of Congress, invited guests, and authorized staff.

"The safety and security of our guests remains our paramount concern, and these changes will allow us to continue honoring these holidays in a manner consistent with the dignity and history of the Capitol," Boehner and McConnell said in a joint statement, responding to a March 12 letter that implied the patriotic parties had grown out of control. …

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