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Amid final acts of 117th Congress, series of moves to restrict the embattled Architect of the Capitol

Washington — CBS Information has realized of a sequence of efforts on Capitol Hill within the ultimate days of the 117th Congress to make it simpler to take away the embattled Architect of the Capitol or to scale back his skill to misuse a perk of his workplace.    

The brand new efforts even embody a small however placing piece of language within the 4,155-page spending invoice signed into law by President Biden to fund the federal government subsequent 12 months. 

The strikes observe a blistering internal review by the company’s inspector normal final 12 months of J. Brett Blanton, who at present holds the place overseeing the amenities, historic artifacts and U.S. Capitol grounds. The inspector normal mentioned its investigation discovered Blanton abused his authority and squandered taxpayer cash, together with by permitting his household to make use of his government-owned SUVs, and driving the automobiles on household holidays to South Carolina, West Virginia and Florida, and a visit to a craft brewery.  

The report additionally alleges Blanton allowed his spouse and daughter to drive his government-issued automobile, together with one occasion through which his daughter was accused of driving recklessly. The report mentioned Blanton’s daughter  “had transported each her mates and boyfriend within the automobile and referred to utilizing the [Architect of the Capitol]’s gasoline as ‘free gasoline.'”

In one other occasion, the report mentioned Blanton claimed to be a regulation enforcement agent, and after a site visitors accident, “When the motive force inquired about Blanton’s insurance coverage data, Blanton instructed him it was a authorities automobile and that he was an ‘agent,'” mentioned the report.

Within the ultimate days of the 117th Congress, the highest Democrat and Republican on the Senate Guidelines Committee launched laws to make it simpler for Congress to take away the Architect of the Capitol from workplace. The laws would permit for the dismissal of the Architect by “impeachment or joint decision of Congress” in instances of “everlasting incapacity, inefficiency, neglect of responsibility, malfeasance; or a felony or conduct involving ethical turpitude.” 

Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri who didn’t search reelection, acknowledged it was unlikely the invoice can be taken up by the Senate forward of Tuesday morning expiration of all laws proposed within the 117th Congress. However Blunt instructed CBS Information “This was nearly as good a time as any to alleviate the priority” that solely the president of america can hearth an Architect of the Capitol. Blunt instructed CBS Information, “Congress must have extra capability to guage the Architect of the Capitol’s efficiency.”  

The Architect of the Capitol is a presidential appointee who, although confirmed by the Senate, can’t be instantly eliminated by the Senate. The brand new laws seeks to present Congress leverage and functionality to take away the Architect.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the highest Democrat on the Senate Guidelines committee, additionally sponsored the laws. Klobuchar and Blunt each just lately referred to as publicly for Blanton’s resignation.

“Primarily based on the overwhelming proof of misconduct outlined on this report, Mr. Blanton should resign. He must be held accountable and reimburse the federal government,” they mentioned in a joint written assertion shortly after the interior evaluate was made public.

A CBS Information evaluate of the huge year-end spending plan to fund the federal authorities reveals language was added to additional prohibit the Architect of the Capitol’s automobile use. The laws, which was signed into regulation final week, consists of language permitting the Architect of the Capitol to have continued use of a taxpayer-funded automobile. However not like prior spending payments that did so, the brand new invoice particularly restricts the automobile utilization for “home-to-work” journey. It additionally adjustments the language of prior spending payments to particularly restrict the automobile’s utilization to the Architect or a “duly approved designee.”

Blanton didn’t return a number of requests for remark. 

The Architect of the Capitol’s Inspector Basic mentioned in an announcement to CBS Information that its probe discovered Blanton wasted $14,000 in taxpayer funds. A spokesperson for the inspector normal mentioned, “To this point, Blanton’s workplace has not supplied a response to deal with or rectify the substantiated costs towards him; nonetheless, his workplace shouldn’t be required to on this case.”

Blanton oversees a workforce of almost 2,000 and can be a part of the US Capitol Police Board. He was the one member of the board who didn’t resign or lose his or her place after the safety failures on the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol attack.

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