Introduction of A Bill to Permit Commercial Filming and Photography on the Grounds of the U.S. Capitol

Floor Speech

Date: April 4, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. NORTON. Madam Speaker, today, I introduce a bill that would permit commercial filming and photography on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Complex, beyond east of Union Square, the only area where such filming and photography is currently authorized. This bill would allow commercial filming and photography outside of the Capitol and congressional office buildings by permit, so long as neither the House nor Senate is in session. In many countries, freedom of expression is limited, and while the January 6th insurrection was one of the greatest threats to American democracy in history, the Capitol and the United States remain beacons of democracy for the world. We should encourage commercial filming and photography at the Capitol to share this symbol of democracy with the world. Movies and television shows that involve the Capitol should not have to go to other cities or use fake capitol buildings for filming.

The current policy allowing commercial filming and photography near the U.S. Botanic Garden shows that the Capitol Police can handle commercial filming and photography at the Capitol Complex, especially when Congress is not in session. However, that vantage point captures the least familiar view of the Capitol. Preventing commercial filmmakers and photographers from shooting in front of the Capitol is neither business-friendly nor true to the nation's democratic traditions. Encouraging commercial filming and photography at the Capitol would help spread the story of our national legislature around the world.

There is no good reason why commercial filming and photography should be confined to Union Square. Specifically, my bill would give the Capitol Police complete discretion to issue a permit for commercial filming and photography at the Capitol Complex under the same terms and conditions as those for commercial filming and photography in Union Square. No policy or security reasons exist to justify limiting commercial filming and photography at the Capitol Complex to only one location, Union Square, especially considering that permits are necessary. Visitors are regularly seen on East Capitol Street (east of 2nd Street) taking pictures, where they get a full view of the Capitol, demonstrating the arbitrary nature of limiting commercial filming and photography to Union Square.

This bill would provide the Capitol Police authority to charge fees to cover any costs incurred by the Architect of the Capitol from permit approval. The fees would be deposited into the Capitol Trust Account, which was established to accept fees collected for commercial filming and photography permits for Union Square. Amounts in the Capitol Trust Account would be available without fiscal year limitation for maintenance, improvements and projects the Architect of the Capitol considers appropriate, subject to the approval of the Appropriations Committees.

Views of the Capitol are among America's most iconic. Limiting commercial filming and photography of the Capitol, an important vehicle for telling the nation's story, does not serve the American people. Indeed, most of the world reveres our system of government largely through commercial films and photos of the Capitol, a symbol of our democracy at work. Commercial films and photographs of the Capitol, the seat of our democracy, are perhaps the best modem vehicles for telling the nation's story and showcasing its democratic system of government. Republicans and Democrats alike revere the image of the Capitol as a symbol of democracy. My bill would enable appropriate, permitted commercial filming and photography of the Capitol, and would create economic benefits for the nation, the District of Columbia and private businesses.

I strongly urge my colleagues to support this bill.