- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Thousands of Capitol Hill staffers who lined up for anthrax testing yesterday expressed more annoyance than fear they were exposed to the bacteria mailed to a Senate office building.
“I would rather have anthrax than poison ivy,” said one staffer who waited patiently in line for 30 minutes to be tested. “There’s nothing you can do for poison ivy, but with anthrax you at least have medicine to cure it.”
The medical attention was in response to Monday’s positive testing of a potent form of anthrax contained in a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
“This is much better than bombs going off,” said one Capitol worker. “If this is all they can do, then bring it on; it’s curable.”
More than 2,000 people were tested before 1 p.m. and given six tablets of the antibiotic Cipro. All Senate aides in a wing of the Hart Senate Office Building where Mr. Daschle’s personal office is located were tested, and the wing remained closed yesterday.
Reporters who covered the event also were told to report for testing, and while waiting interviewed congressional aides for stories. All aides spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Many staffers expressed more concern they would be unable to drink alcohol while taking the antibiotic.
“Take two pills twice a day, no alcohol, return on Thursday for second testing,” was the standard line as the medicine was dispensed to groaning staffers.
Many staffers said the testing was an “overreaction” or a “pain.”
“Life doesn’t have to stop because of some nutbag, hopefully,” said one aide. “I think people are going about their daily lives. There’s a caution but not a panic.”
Lobbyists and other visitors in the building that day also were called in for testing, and staffers praised leadership and Capitol Police for arranging the screening.
Capitol employees complained that increased security is mostly cosmetic and not effective, while some senators said security measures, including the indefinite suspension of tours, is over the top.
“I think we’re overdoing it just a tad,” said Sen. Don Nickles, assistant minority leader and Oklahoma Republican. “I don’t feel like a target, I don’t feel threatened.”
Sen. Craig Thomas, Wyoming Republican, agreed and said the focus needed to be returned to legislating.
“I don’t feel a sense of terror here, I think we need to get our work done and move on,” said Mr. Thomas, whose displaced staff is sharing office space with fellow Wyoming Republican Michael B. Enzi.
Mr. Daschle said the precautions are required and widely supported, and the Senate will “be back in business in all respects” within days.
“Obviously, these are difficult times, and we are going to have logistic and administrative challenges that we’re going to have to face. But I think under the circumstances the Senate is functioning quite well,” said Mr. Daschle.
Attorney General John Ashcroft encouraged Americans yesterday to “be active, but vigilant; calm, but alert.” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said his staff is “calm and low-key.”
“I told them to stay close to me because I will die in bed of natural causes,” said Mr. McCain, a Vietnam veteran who survived six years in a prisoner of war camp.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, is trying to set up a national town hall meeting next week to be televised on four networks. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, said she is working with Mrs. Clinton “to really give people information” about anthrax.
Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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