Jacksonville residents who have visited the nation’s capital in the past might be shocked to see it today.
Hordes of people, including lobbyists and tourists used to keep the Capitol and government office buildings packed.
“It is very different,” U.S. Rep. John Rutherford of Jacksonville told Eye on Jacksonville.
Rutherford, like most other members of the House, generally wears a mask and keeps his distance from others during the pandemic.
But it is the process that has changed the most.
“All the people, and hustle and bustle are gone,” he said.
His office is in the Longworth Building in Washington, D.C. Other than members and staff, there is little public presence.
Many staff people work from home via video conferencing.
There is a signal used to let the administrative staff of the House know when to clean the offices, and the offices get a deep cleaning.
No staff are allowed in the nearby Capitol itself, however. Only House members and the press, basically.
The usual process is changed. Members go to the microphone to debate but leave afterward.
Voting is done by breaking the House members into eight groups, alphabetically, Rutherford said.
Each group goes into the chamber after it is disinfected and casts a vote — using pens to hit the voting button.
Virtually all other meetings are being done by video, he said.
As for going to Washington and back, Rutherford said he drove a car once, but last week took a commercial flight – and found very few other people on the plane.
Like most people, the congressman wants a return to normalcy, especially on the job.
“Government needs to get going,” he said.