Sweeps continue as House, Senate prepare to return

Health officials continued conducting an environmental sweep of House and Senate office buildings today to look for traces of anthrax, as officials focus on people and facilities associated with Capitol mail delivery.

House and Senate leaders, in consultation with health and security officials, are expected to decide later today whether to reopen congressional office buildings Tuesday, when the House and Senate come back into session. But that appears doubtful, since Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., this afternoon told reporters he has "ample reason" to believe the congressional office buildings will be reopened sometime "within the next few days."

House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and House leaders will announce this afternoon that they have set up alternative office space for each House member and three staff members at 441 G Street N.W., a building used by GAO. Arrangements for committee staffs are yet to be determined.

To date, four sites within the Capitol complex have tested positive for anthrax exposure: Daschle's Hart Office Building suite, the Dirksen Office Building mailroom, a mail site at the Ford House Office Building and a mail processing center at P and Half Street, S.E.

The continuing sweeps come as D.C. officials disclosed the recent deaths of two postal workers at the city's Brentwood postal facility, both of whom exhibited symptoms consistent with anthrax exposure. A second worker has been diagnosed with inhalation anthrax, authorities said today.

Lt. Dan Nichols, a Capitol Police spokesman, said this weekend that sweeps have been conducted in the Capitol and would continue in the House and Senate office buildings.

Officials today are paying particular attention to the Longworth House Office Building, since traces of anthrax were found on a machine that sorts mail for Longworth.

Daschle cancelled a news conference scheduled for this morning, but Daschle, Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and others were scheduled to meet today with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a cloture vote on the fiscal 2002 Foreign Operations appropriations bill Tuesday. A Daschle spokesman said that anti-terrorism legislation and bioterrorism legislation could come up this week, likely as separate bills, as could judicial nominees and the FY02 Agriculture appropriations bill.

Meanwhile, the House is scheduled to return to a familiar routine Tuesday with a series of suspension votes slated for after 6 p.m. The House is expected to reconvene at 12:30 p.m. for the morning hour and at 2 p.m. for legislative business. A vote on the conference report for anti-terrorism legislation is also expected Tuesday.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, anticipates the House will be in session Wednesday through Friday to consider economic stimulus legislation, the fiscal 2002 Defense appropriations bill and any available FY02 appropriations conference reports.

Reps.-elect Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., will finally assume their recently won House seats Tuesday at 6 p.m., a week after their separate special elections to fill the seats of former GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough and the late Democratic Rep. Joe Moakley, respectively.

The two were to be sworn in last Thursday at noon, but their oaths had to be postponed after sweeps for anthrax exposure forced the House's early recess last week.