Gohmert gives Texans tour of Capitol
By Gary Martin, Houston Chronicle
U.S. Capitol tour guides do not normally have “R-Texas” after their names.
But on Monday, the seventh day of the government shutdown, Louie Gohmert figured he might as well show some folks from back home around the office.
“All official tours have been stopped during the shutdown,” Gohmert said, so he notified constituents visiting Washington that he could take them on a tour around 2:30 p.m., and “these are the ones that could make it,” he said.
Gohmert wasn’t the only congressman squiring tourists around the hushed and all-but-vacant halls of government. Representatives from Colorado and California did the same.
Congressional offices were staffed by skeleton crews Monday and those who were still on the job — including the members themselves — spent their time answering phones and doing all manner of chores.
In addition to the shutdown, Mother Nature also played havoc on congressional schedules.
Some lawmakers, like Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, faced weather delays as tornado watches and warnings stopped air traffic coming into Washington and surrounding cities.
Castro has yet to be asked to give a constituent tour, but his staff said he is eager to meet with constituents any time.
“Every time a San Antonian comes by the office to visit, Congressman Castro makes it a point to see them and say hello,” said spokeswoman Laura Zapata. “This is all time, not just during the government shutdown.”
Last week, Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz, both Texas Republicans, met with Dallas-Fort Worth area veterans outside the World War II Memorial on the National Mall.
Cornyn plans to meet with Fort Worth veterans at the airport on Tuesday.
The senior Texas senator’s office remains open, even though lawmakers have been forced to furlough staff.
“The majority of the staff is furloughed. We are operating on a skeleton staff right now,” a Cornyn spokeswoman said.
The lack of all hands on deck is forcing lawmakers, like Gohmert, to perform tasks that at otherwise fall to interns or staffers.
Gohmert has been an outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature health care legislation, which remains at the heart of the battle.
Democrats accused Gohmert and other Republican lawmakers of playing politics with the shutdown when they arrived at the World War II Memorial last week to stand with veterans upset about the memorial’s closing.
“I didn’t know if a camera would be there, I didn’t care, but I knew there would be World War II veterans who had served their country so patriotically,” Gohmert told Fox News. “We were going to be there to do whatever we could for them.”
In addition to Gohmert, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., gave constituent tours as the House continued debate on ending the week-long shutdown.