Congressional Freshmen’s First Fight: Landing a Good Office

WASHINGTON – Representative-elect Maxwell Frost, a Democrat of Florida, inhaled the Vicks nasal drop his mother had given him.

Representative Erin Houchin, Republic of Indiana, played Europe’s “The Final Countdown” on her phone.

Representative-elect Becca Balint, a Vermont Democrat, ran to the front of the room raising her arms to rally the crowd, only to return to her seat with head bowed and legs dragging after learning. Her destiny: She will be the ninth-last newly elected member of Congress to choose an office.

Cheers and taunts filled an ornate room on Capitol Hill on Friday from 73 incoming freshmen of the House, who were participating in one of the events planned Most expected in the process towards Congress: the lottery to choose their new office.

Congress is the equivalent of a college room draw, the ritual can be a stressful and sometimes noisy affair. It was performed in person this week for the first time in four years – a process that took place remotely during the pandemic – and participants brought back beloved traditions like dancing, chanting and waving. hand for good luck.

The newly minted lawmakers have spent the past two weeks attending an elaborate orientation session in Washington, meeting each other and learning how to navigate the tunnels that zigzag beneath the Capitol and its buildings and grounds. around. They took crash courses on how to set up their own office, but it wasn’t until Friday that they had a chance to actually choose one.

“The box we picked is over 100 years old,” said Representative-elect Wiley Nickel, Democrat of North Carolina, who attributed his luck in the sweepstakes to refusing to look at the numbers. which he drew from the mahogany box. “Anytime you get to stand in the shoes of those who have come before you is a great honor.”

The box dates back to the early 20th century, when one page Blindfolded House will draw marbles for legislators. On Friday, the newly elected members pull the button one by one Bring the numbers that will determine the order in which they can choose an available office.

Over the course of an hour, they cheered and whistled at each other, laughed with envy when a colleague drew a low number and booed with disgust when someone pulled a high number.

After drawing lots, they left, taking floor plans with them, to survey both vacant and occupied offices. Staff aides informed their uninformed bosses about the pros and cons of each House office building: Longworth, a Neoclassical building with Ionic columns, has low but more centrally located ceilings; The Cannon, the Beaux-Arts limestone and marble building next door, is the most recently renovated and therefore the most desirable.

Representative-elect Max Miller, Republican of Ohio, was one of the lucky few to land an office there. He waved a finger in the air for good luck as the crowd cheered him on, chanting, “No. first.” To his surprise, he pulled out the first pick, prompting thunderous applause.

Mr. Frost has an average age of 23. He hopes he can still get an office in Cannon, joking at one point with a reporter about starting a dirty campaign to convince his colleagues. your career elsewhere.

“We should get straight to Cannon,” he said.

As Mr. Frost browsed the halls of Longworth, an employee warned him that rats ran there. He was looking for a newer office to accommodate his allergies, with a large room for employees.

Representative-elect Robert Garcia, a Democrat of California, said he wanted a green carpet in his office as a symbol of his pride in his party.

When members have finished shopping, they return to their selection, centered around laptops showing vacant offices.

Nikki Rapanos, chief of staff to Representative-elect Nick LaLota, Republican of New York, stomped as Rep-elect Derrick Van Orden, Republican of Wisconsin, announced her boss’s top choice: an office. on the corner of Longworth Street with ample space for staff.

Ms Rapanos even played Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” to direct the spirit of Mr. LaLota, who was not in attendance, and bring good luck to her office by drawing a number.

Representative-elect Seth Magaziner, the Democrat of Rhode Island, who drew the fourth-to-last vote, raising both hands to resign after the selection. He tried to make the best of his unhappiness.

“They say the best office is the one you’re in,” says Mr. Magaziner.


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