Heard on the Hill

Retiring Members Make Room for Their Replacements

Rayburn basement just got more crowded

Painters repaint the office of outgoing North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers in the Longworth building last week in preparation for a new tenant. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Departing House members are having their last hurrah together in the Rayburn House Office Building basement until their final day in Congress.

They were moved to the Members Service Center, where each member has a cubicles with a computer, two chairs and a phone to share with their decreased staffs.

The members were supposed to be out of their offices by Dec. 1 to make room for the new occupants. 

Committee chairmen are able to stay in the committee offices — Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline is working out of the Education and the Workforce Committee office.

Some members take meetings in the basement, but others rarely utilize the space and meet in public locations around the Hill.

[Take Five: Retiring Rep. John Kline]

“My dear friend, Congressman [Adam B.] Schiff, took pity on me and offered me a desk in his office,” said retiring New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel. “I’ve now had the distinct pleasure of working as Adam’s intern, and I can’t imagine a better job.

“I’ve already asked if I can stay on for January. He told me I had to become a Dodgers fan to get the job, so I don’t think it’s going to work out,” Israel added. 

Move-out days are staggered beginning in late November. Those who had already announced their retirement have had more than a year to plan their move. Others have been planning and packing more hastily since Election Day.

And remaining members are able to move to better offices during this period based on seniority. Once they get their pick, incoming freshmen can choose theirs.

Staffers in Missouri Rep. <a class="memberLink" title="Click to view member info in a new window" href="http://data.rollcall.com/members/10812?rel=memberLink" target="_blank">Sam Graves</a>′ office go about their regular business surrounded by moving boxes. The congressman is moving his Longworth building office down to the first floor as the 114th Congress comes to a close. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Staffers in Missouri Rep. Sam Graves′ office go about their regular business surrounded by moving boxes. The congressman is moving his Longworth building office down to the first floor as the 114th Congress comes to a close. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House provides each member office with a checklist of 41 tasks, divided by those that need to get done two weeks before moving out, tasks for the two weeks leading up to Moving Day, and things to do on their last day.

[Pack up Your Troubles: Members Begin Moving Out]

Last-day tasks include returning parking stickers, phones and computers. But the staffers can keep their IDs so they have access to the building as long as the House is in session.

Since the space for outgoing members is limited, staffers rotate who works a particular day so only one or two are there at once.

Arizona GOP Rep. Matt Salmon, who announced his retirement in February, showed off his new digs on Friday.

[Rep.-elect Kihuen Goes Office Hunting]

So where does all the stuff go?

Some of it can be kept in storage rooms in the House office buildings, known as “cages.”

Members could donate items, or colleges and universities could buy them; It is up to the member’s discretion to choose to donate any of their records. Rep. Lois Capps is giving her archives to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where the California Democrat earned her master’s.

[Exit Interviews: Retiring House Members]

Furniture gets placed in the hallways, and members and staff can claim what they like. All furniture is owned by the General Services Administration.

And, like any other move, the member, and often his or her family, will come with a moving truck to take away personal belongings.

Graves’ staffers work amid the moving boxes in the office.(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Graves’ staffers work amid the moving boxes in the office.(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The amount of help the new occupant gets depends on whether it’s a hostile takeover — the handover might not be so friendly in a district that switched between parties. Sometimes archives and records don’t get passed along.

[Take Five: Retiring Rep. Steve Israel]

For handing over such casework, the House gives members three options: Leave nothing for the new member, leave just form letters, subscriber lists and casework, or leave all their records.

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