There was chatter among Congressional reporters about wandering over to The Monocle for a drink last Wednesday night. The Monocle is an old-school Capitol Hill watering hole located next to U.S. Capitol Police Headquarters and across the parking lot from the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Senators sometimes hang out there while they wait for the body to get its business together for late night votes.
It was pushing 9 p.m. last Wednesday and the Senate was mired in a vote which began at 2:26 p.m. Senators struggled to work out a deal to finish up its work before Thanksgiving. The only reason reporters still lingered at the Capitol at that hour was because the Senate was slated to vote later to align with the House and avert a government shutdown. There would have been drama surrounding a potential government funding cliff just a few days earlier. But not now. The question was not if the Senate would pass the stopgap spending package – but when. And since there wasn’t an agreement over a pending defense policy bill, the Senate forestalled closing the roll call vote until everything was settled.
That’s when word came from the Capitol Police that all the office buildings on the House side of the Congressional complex were locked down.