New Congress’ first pri­or­ity: Scram­bling for a good of­fice

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Mar­garet Talev

There’s a mad scram­ble among law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill, and it doesn’tin­volve­jock­ey­ing­for­cov­eted com­mit­tee as­sign­ments in the new Demo­cratic-con­trolled Congress.

Tons of pa­per, fur­nish­ings, equip­ment and years’ worth of nos­tal­gia are be­ing yanked from the suites of law­mak­ers who weren’t re-elected this month or are re­tir­ing, mak­ing way­for­col­leagueswho­called­dib­son their of­fice space.

In a domino ef­fect, ju­nior mem­bers now stuck with low-sta­tus of­fices grab what they can get among the­new­ly­opened­suite­sand­pass­the dregs down to the fresh­men. The House has fin­ished its se­lec­tions. The Se­nate is still at it.

Then,there­arethe­cov­eted“hide­aways”intheCapi­tol­build­ing—un­marked locked of­fices that per­haps 80 sen­a­tors and fewer House mem­bers claim. Some of those are up for grabs, too.

Each con­gres­sional of­fice has its mix of lo­ca­tion, view, square footage and­his­tory—an­da­nunof­fi­cial­rank­ing — that con­veys a sense of who a law­maker is and where he or she is go­ing.

AviewoftheCapi­tolortheWash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment is a big deal; a view of the staff park­ing lot is not.

The House as­signs empty of­fices by a com­plex lot­tery sys­tem, the Se­nate by se­nior­ity.

Re­tire­ments of se­nior mem­bers usu­al­lyyield­thebestspaces.Forex­am­ple,thisyear­brings­thede­par­ture of Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illi­nois Repub­li­can. Rep. Solomon P. Or­tiz, a Tex­as­Democrat­first­electe­din1982, snagged Mr. Hyde’s prime Ray­burn build­ing of­fice in the lot­tery.

“It’sadead-on­viewoftheCapi­tol. You can see the Mall. It’s the first floor,an­dit’sabig­gerspace”thanhis pre­vi­ousof­fice,saidMr.Or­tiz’scom­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, Cathy Travis.

Con­gres­sional of­fi­cials wouldn’t es­ti­mate the cost of an av­er­age of­fice shuf­fle, but the tax­pay­ers’ tab can reach thou­sands of dol­lars per mem­ber.

Some law­mak­ers covet of­fices once held by fig­ures such as Presi- dents Kennedy or Lyn­don B. John­son.Other­sopt­forspace:Thes­mall­est suites are less than 850 square feet, the largest twice that.

As in high school, fresh­men can’t be choosy.

The Can­non House Of­fice Build­ing’s fifth floor is con­sid­ered a fresh­man trap. Stor­age cages line the walls with­out win­dows. Mem­bers’ of­fice­shavewin­dowswith­court­yard views, but the air con­di­tion­ing is spot­tyin­sum­mer,andthe­of­fice­sare hard­to­get­to­be­caus­esomeel­e­va­tors go only to the fourth floor.

Even­less­de­sir­ablearetwo“split” suites on lower floors of Can­non.

Just ask Rep.-elect Michael Ar­curi, New York Demo­crat, who got the­last­pick­inth­elot­tery.To­get­from oneend­ofhisof­fice­totheother,he’ll have to leave and re-en­ter through an­other door.

This year’s 10 in­com­ing sen­a­tors will choose of­fices based on a rank­ing that con­sid­ers past ser­vice in the House, pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tions or gov­er­nor­ships, and state pop­u­la­tion.

In the Se­nate, the Rus­sell of­fice build­ing, with its rich mar­ble and fire­places,con­veysthe­great­est­sense of tra­di­tion. But law­mak­ers of­ten choose of­fice build­ings based on the prox­im­i­ty­oftheirof­fices­tothecom­mit­tees on which they serve.

Sen.-elect Jon Tester, Mon­tana Demo­crat, said that his space “will prob­a­bly be a broom closet — I’m 100 out of 100.”

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