23 GOP ranking members demand Pelosi reopen Capitol, blame Dems for using COVID to control Americans' lives

Pelosi spokesperson says reopening the Capitol to public access is not in her control

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FIRST ON FOX: Nearly two dozen top Republicans in the lower chamber on Wednesday called on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to reopen the Capitol for public visitor access.

In a letter obtained by Fox News, ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., accused the speaker of using the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to "assert control over every aspect of American life."

Ranking member James Comer speaks during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.

Ranking member James Comer speaks during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing. (Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)

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"Your closure has continued despite safe and effective vaccines, treatments, and testing being widely available to most of the population for almost a year," the letter signed by 23 Republican ranking members said.

"Why are you unnecessarily keeping the People’s House closed?" they questioned. 

The Capitol was originally shut down to public access at the onslaught of the pandemic in March 2020.

The closure coincided with nationwide shutdowns, including access to the White House, all Smithsonian museums and even national parks. 

But the lawmakers pointed out that since the first lockdown nearly two years ago, nearly 81% of Americans ages 12 and up have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine – a sentiment echoed by President Biden in his address to the nation Tuesday.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks to reporters during her weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks to reporters during her weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Biden vowed the nation would not see more shutdowns as concerns have increased regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine in fending off the omicron variant.

"Because omicron spreads so easily, we’ll see some fully vaccinated people get COVID, potentially in large numbers," the president said. "But these cases are highly unlikely to lead to serious illness."

"Vaccinated people who get COVID may get ill, but they’re protected from severe illness and death," Biden added in his plea with unvaccinated Americans to get shots in their arms. 

But in answer to a question about whether the U.S. would see more shutdowns, he said, "Absolutely no."

"More than 200 million Americans have been fully vaccinated," the president explained. "In March of 2020, no one was fully vaccinated."

President Joe Biden speaks about the omicron variant of the coronavirus from the State Dining Room of the White House.

President Joe Biden speaks about the omicron variant of the coronavirus from the State Dining Room of the White House. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Lawmakers urged Pelosi to allow the Capitol to reopen to the public in coordination with national parks and Smithsonian museums – particularly during the holiday season. 

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"Speaker Pelosi’s refusal to reopen the U.S. Capitol complex goes against science and restricts Americans from visiting the People’s House and petitioning their elected officials," Comer said in a statement to Fox News. "It’s past time for Speaker Pelosi to let go of the bah-humbug attitude and reopen the Capitol to the American people."

But Pelosi's office said reopening the Capitol to public access is not a matter the speaker has control over.

"Such decisions are made by the House and Senate sergeants at arms in consultation with the Office of Attending Physician," a spokesperson for Pelosi told Fox News on Wednesday. 

Fox News could not immediately reach the congressional sergeant at arms for comment.