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The Hill's Alex Bolton: The Earthquake Reaction On Capitol Hill

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With Congress in recess and President Barack Obama on vacation, most elected officials were not on hand for Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Alex Bolton, senior staff writer for The Hill newspaper reports that the effects were felt nonetheless.

President Obama was up in Martha's Vineyard playing golf, but at about 2:50 p.m., he convened an emergency conference call to go over initial reports in the wake of the earthquake. They discussed the status of critical infrastructure, but there were no major reports of infrastructure damage, including airports and nuclear facilities.

While many in Congress were taking the opportunity to visit their districts across the country, Alex Bolton says there were still plenty of people at the Capitol when the quake struck.

"I spoke to some aides on the Hill today and they reacted just like most people did in Washington," says Bolton. "They were initially confused about what was happening. Many were pretty scared, because the Capitol building is an old building and wasn't built with earthquakes in mind. It's built largely out of stone and marble, inflexible material that doesn't do very well in a quake."

There were some members of Congress in a special session at the time of the quake, according to Bolton.

"The session was a pro forma session, which was part of an agreement with Republicans before they left," Bolton explains. "They wanted to hold periodic pro forma, or ceremonial, sessions to prevent President Obama from making recess appointments in August."

The session was supposed to start at 2:30 p.m., but the Capitol wasn't deemed safe enough, so instead this ceremonial session was held at the Postal Square Building, and Chris Coons from Delaware presided over the short session.

Work is expected to resume as usual at the Capitol tomorrow.

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