Clearing the air on Capitol Hill

CLEARING THE AIR ON CAPITOL HILL….Washington is allegedly filled with smoke-filled rooms, but DC recently implemented a smoking ban for office spaces citywide. It affects everyone — except, apparently, lawmakers on Capitol Hill who haven’t decided if they’ll follow the city law or not. (Congress is not automatically subject to D.C. law.)

This week, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and 18 of his Democratic colleagues asked Speaker Dennis Hastert to help bring the Hill in line with the rest of the city.

“Unless you act, the Capitol Complex will soon be one of the few places in the District of Columbia where the law does not protect employees and visitors for the harmful effects of secondhand smoke,” the lawmakers wrote. Congress is not subject to the D.C. law.

The Democrats single out the Speaker’s Lobby off the House floor, a favorite hangout of Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other lawmakers who take breaks from the action on the floor to puff on a cigarette or cigar.

Boehner probably won’t take kindly to the idea — he’s a proud chain-smoker — but I vaguely recall the Contract with America emphasizing the importance of lawmakers following the same laws as everybody else.

I can personally think of dozens of committee hearings that I’ve attended in which members of the Virginia and North Carolina delegations would light up in the middle of testimony, much to the surprise of visitors who knew they couldn’t legally do the same in their office.

So, how about it, Congress? Care to clear the air?