If Rep. John L. Mica had his way, a lot of people who currently inhabit some of the most cherry spots on the House side of the Capitol would be looking for new places to hang their hats come November.
“It’s something that we need to look at in the next Congress, … opening up more of these historic spaces,” the Florida Republican told HOH about his quest to carve out additional meeting rooms and reception areas for entertainment-minded lawmakers.
Per Mica, the current crop of reservation-required options is woefully limited to the Speaker’s Dining Room (H-122) and the Henry J. Hyde Room (H-139).
By comparison, Mica noted that senators have access to the cavernous Lyndon Baines Johnson (S-211) and Mike Mansfield (S-207) rooms. “We don’t have those equivalents. And we should,” he argued. Moreover, Mica firmly believes that the various committees, leadership aides and satellite press presently camped out across all three floors of the Capitol could do their business elsewhere.
“The reason I championed the Congressional Visitor Center was to move more functions out of the Capitol,” he explained, echoing a misconception that the pre-existing press galleries would automatically be displaced once the shiny new Capitol Visitor Center debuted, even though then-Speaker J. Dennis Hastert assured newsgatherers the proposed media center would be made available in addition to the status quo, rather than being an either/or proposition.
Mica even made a pitch to have the House’s top cop, Paul D. Irving, bumped from his decades-old perch.
“The sergeant-at-arms doesn’t have to be there,” Mica posited.
A House aide was not surprised by the frustration voiced by the 11-term pol, but vigorously defended just how much more accommodating the Capitol has gotten as of late.
“In a body that has 435 members, you are never gonna have enough meeting rooms on any given day that we are in session. But we actually have more rooms available for that purpose than we’ve had as recently as five years ago,” our source stated.
Per the aide, members can lay claim to a slew of easily reconfigurable, multipurpose spaces over in the CVC — including HVC 200, HVC 201A, HVC 201B, HVC 214, HVC 215A and HVC 215B — on a daily basis.
Moreover, the aide noted that Speaker John A. Boehner actually reclaimed two additional meeting rooms on the first floor, the Henry Hyde Room (formally a Foreign Affairs Committee hangout) and H-137 (formally the House barber shop before the Ways and Means Committee got a hold of it), when he assumed control of the chamber in 2011. During that same transition, Boehner also brokered a deal with the House Parliamentarian to create the first ladies’ room right off the Speaker’s Lobby, saving female lawmakers from having to go up or down a floor just to use the facilities.
Satisfying Mica, on the other hand, could prove next to impossible.
First off, the House floor, naturally, requires significantly more space than the more intimate Senate chamber.
The other major impediment: All those dead guys.
“We have Statuary Hall and they don’t. So the Senate’s just got a better deal,” the aide suggested, lamenting the House’s inability to compete with all the highly coveted hideaways bequeathed to solons across the way.