New Congress, new offices: Long-timers and rookies vie for prime real estate
Like students on the first day of school, members of the 112th Congress settled in their new digs Wednesday. Some have shiny new offices -- and some have basement cubicles.
The big winner is John Boehner, who inherited the plush speaker's office in the Capitol, complete with grand views and a private balcony. The new House leadership has sprawling new spaces, and members with seniority -- Reps. Don Young, Lynn Westmoreland, Mike Conaway, G.K. Butterfield, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, to name a bipartisan few -- quietly upgraded to better real estate in the Rayburn building, which has slightly larger office suites.
The Senate land grab is ongoing: Retiring or defeated senators didn't vacate their offices until late last month, and the Senate office lottery -- also determined by seniority -- allows each senator 24 hours to upgrade to a new space, if he or she wishes. The entire process takes weeks; the moves won't be completed until the spring.
Dick Durbin is snagging Arlen Specter's old space in Hart 711 because it's slightly bigger than his current space. Special elections allowed Scott Brown and Joe Manchin to temporarily move into the plush office suites of their predecessors, the late Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd. Those offices are now up for grabs; and as junior senators, Brown and Manchin must settle for less coveted spaces. Despite her primary loss, Lisa Murkowski kept her office in Hart 709. Why? She was a sitting senator throughout the election process, which meant no break in service or seniority.
Lowest on the totem pole: incoming first-term senators, who will tough it out in tiny temporary spaces for the next few months. "For the last four Congresses, I seem to be moving into worse offices," joked Sen. Roy Blunt, who was sworn in as a senator Wednesday after years serving in the House. He occupied spacious suites as House majority leader and minority leader, but "now I'm in the basement of the Dirksen building." B40C Dirksen, to be exact -- but only for a couple of months. "Eventually, they give you a permanent office," he told us. "Everything is slower in the Senate. My new goal is an office with a window."
And the raucous lottery for freshman House members? In mid-November, 85 rookies pulled random numbers, and each had 20 minutes to pick one of the vacant offices. Rep. Cory Gardner pulled No. 1 and selected Cannon 213; Robert Hurt grabbed the lowest number and ended up with 1516 Longworth.
The luckiest freshman: Blake Farenthold, who won a tightly contested race against Rep. Solomon Ortiz, a Texas Democrat who served for 28 years. The election wasn't called until the end of November; Farenthold missed the lottery and landed one of few remaining offices available: Ortiz's primo spread in 2110 Rayburn.
"Great view," a delighted staffer told us
The Reliable Source
| January 6, 2011; 1:00 AM ET
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