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Senators Stay Put in Hideaways

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Sen. Daniel Inouye (left) decided against a new hideaway, while Sen. Carl Levin (right) scored a space that belonged to former Sen. Chris Dodd.

A number of long-serving Senators are sitting out this year’s draw for coveted hideaways.

Although Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) have scored posh new hangouts, several others high on the seniority list have decided to stay put.

That has opened the way for the ninth- and 10th-most-senior Senators, Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to push for upgrades.

It’s a Senate tradition that is a cross between “Trading Spaces” and the NBA draft. Every two years, after some of the longest-serving lawmakers retire or pass away, the remaining Senators start the process of shuffling spaces, seeking to enhance their status with a coveted secret office.

But about a quarter of the way through the process this year, many of the chamber’s senior lawmakers are sticking with the spoils of their seniority, content with the plush Capitol refuges decades of service have afforded.

Four of the 10 longest-serving sitting Senators decided it was time for an upgrade, including Hatch, who snagged the legendary space once occupied by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Levin, who moved into the impressive hideaway of former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

Hatch said his elegant new third-floor office, with a fireplace, large windows and high arched ceilings, is a significant upgrade, especially because it is just paces from the Senate floor.

“This one has a convenience factor to it that my other ones have not,” he said Thursday. “I’ve had a variety of offices over here and I like this one better than any one I’ve had.”

As he passed by in the Senate chamber Wednesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) ribbed Hatch about his catch, asking whether he’s ready to spend $100,000 to remodel his new room.

The Utah Republican, who is up for reelection next year, said he doesn’t know the price tag attached to his move. He said the Architect of the Capitol handles that — and for good reason.

“We’ve got to maintain it because it was the original library for Thomas Jefferson’s books,” he told Roll Call.

Though Kennedy’s hideaway was the big haul, Levin fell into another top hideaway, according to sources in his office.

Although Levin himself declined to comment, he benefited from fifth-most-senior Sen. Max Baucus’ decision to keep his second-floor room, a source in the Montana Democrat’s office confirmed. Baucus stayed put because of the great location behind the Mansfield Room, where Senators often hold luncheons.

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