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The dome of the Capitol is lit up as the Senate votes on a new bailout package -- October 1, 2008 - 


Scott Jagow: Speaking of out of control spending, check out the new visitors center on Capitol Hill. It opens today, almost four years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget. Here's nancy Marshall Genzer.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: Congress's new welcome center features acres of sandstone and pink marble floors. There are interactive computer displays and theaters. The initial cost was pegged at $71 million in the early 1990's. The final price tag: $621 million.

What happened? 9/11, for one. Spokeswoman Sharon Gang:

Sharon Gang: The scope of the project changed. The ceremonial groundbreaking took place in 2000. Our world changed after that.

Two expensive new tunnels were added. And Congress expanded the project to include office space.

But Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, says the ballooning costs were also due to wasteful contracts and a lack of congressional oversight.

Melanie Sloan: They had basically an open checkbook. So they weren't really worried like you or I would be if we were renovating our house.

Sloan says Congress should take responsibility for the cost overruns. But that's not on the agenda for today's opening ceremony, which is closed to the public.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.