One issue complicating an extended House lame-duck session has nothing at all to do with politics or policy. It’s office space.
With more than 90 incoming, and just as many outgoing, Member of Congress, a session that lasts into December will see more than one-fifth of the chamber's Members booted out of their offices and into what are essentially cubicles.
To accommodate the massive incoming class, departing Representatives are moved out on Dec. 1 and are relegated to smaller temporary spaces in various locations throughout the House office buildings, according to the office of the Architect of the Capitol, which carries out the moves.
”The workstations provide phone, computer and other equipment for Members to conduct some business during the lame-duck session,” AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said. “This is customary after each election cycle in the House.”
But the number of lame-duck Members this year eclipses that of past election cycles, making the process of moving them out and finding the temporary space to house them more than just a usual chore.
One temporary space will be the cubicle-filled Rayburn House Office Building room that has been the service center for new Members to procure furniture and office equipment.
Adding to a transient House is the fact that dozens of incumbents have chosen to move offices as well. That means close to half of all House offices will be in flux.
Not so in the Senate. In the other chamber, it’s the incoming Senators who are given the temporary space.
Departing Senators are not required to vacate their suites until their terms end in January, said Rules and Administration Committee Staff Director Jean Bordewich.
Between now and January, incoming Senators have temporary offices for themselves and two staffers. Those spaces are located mostly in the basements of the Russell and Dirksen Senate office buildings.
“After they become Senators in January, they are permitted to hire their full staff, and they have larger temporary office suites until their permanent office suite is available,” Bordewich said. “Typically the moving to permanent suites is completed for all Senators sometime in April.”
As a result, the Senate offices are not the hub of moving activity that the House buildings have been.
Retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), for instance, hasn’t started the process of moving out yet, his spokesman Barry Piatt said.
“He’s here and we’re all working. That won’t change through the course of the lame duck, and for some time after,” Piatt said. “At some point, of course, we’ll need to focus on shutting down and moving out, but we haven’t gotten there yet.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.