When a fire broke out in an electrical closet in the office of House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, last week, there were no fire hoses in the nearby fire boxes, the office building's fire alarm system didn't work, and there were no sprinkler systems in the offices.
This was in the Longworth House Office building across from the Capitol. It has offices for that same Congress that busily passes fire safety laws for the rest of the nation, including a bill just approved by a House committee that requires motels and hotels to have sprinkler systems to be eligible for government business.Congress carefully exempts itself from the laws that it so casually imposes on other people. In this case, it was exempt from the Washington, D.C., fire code. There is just no excuse for this. It would have served the lawmakers right if their expensive office building had burned down.
The blaze in Wright's office was fought with fire extinguishers until fire fighters arrived. Still, damage to the office and to other parts of the building totaled more than $110,000.
The House member who discovered the flames and fought them with fire extinguishers, Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., said he would wage a campaign to make sure Congress meets fire codes that apply to other businesses in the District of Columbia.
Congress clearly is one of the most dangerous fire traps in the country with all the excess hot air it produces each day.
While the lawmakers look at doing away with their fire code exemption, they ought to get rid of all the other exemptions as well.
There is no justifiable reason why Congress should pass laws on civil rights, labor relations, safety, and freedom of information, and exclude itself from those same laws.
This is an election year; let's pin the candidates down on this issue.