GOP Conference Eyes Move to Cannon Building

Posted January 29, 2003 at 5:46pm

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) has her sights set on moving the GOP policy shop from Longworth to Cannon, closer to her personal office.

If Pryce succeeds in that effort, however, the ripple effect would mean dozens of employees of the Chief Administrative Officer who deal with pay and benefits issues for thousands of Hill workers would be forced to move to the Ford House Office Building, considered an undesirable location because of its distance from the Capitol and the other buildings.

According to individuals familiar with the situation, the GOP Conference has its eye on space currently occupied by the office of finance and the office of benefits and payroll. Those staffs are now housed on the second floor of the Cannon House Office Building. But sources said that if the move does transpire, front offices for the CAO’s finance, benefits and payroll operations would still be retained in the Cannon space. Such a concession would alleviate some of the CAO staff’s concerns, most prominently that staffers might be less inclined to drop in the office to ask payroll or insurance questions or seek counseling if they had to go to Ford.

Pryce’s personal office is in Cannon 221, and since taking over House Republicans’ message and strategy shop she had already moved the Conference chief of staff and communications team into the office next door previously occupied by Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) in Cannon 223. For now, the Conference policy office remains in room 1010 of the Longworth House Office Building, space used by Rep. J.C. Watts (Okla.) when he was GOP Conference chairman.

“Ideally you would want the entire Conference shop together under one roof,” spokesman Greg Crist said, insisting, however, that “there are no current plans” to take over any CAO space.

“There has been some talk of that,” Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) spokesman John Feehery said of the possible move earlier this month, although he, too, added that nothing had been decided.

A senior GOP aide familiar with the discussions said that such a move — if it takes place — remains months away. The space the CAO’s staff would take in Ford needs to be renovated to suit that purpose, according to the aide.

“People are confident that if there was any movement, it would be relegated to the back office, and the desk there that staff use regularly would stay in this area,” a knowledgeable House aide said.

If Pryce does move the entire Conference shop together near her personal office in Cannon, she will have done the exact opposite of her predecessor.

A few years into his tenure as Conference chairman, Watts moved his personal office from a bigger suite on the second floor of Longworth to 1007 — a relatively cramped space — in order to have his personal office close to the Conference.

At that time Rep. John Boehner (Ohio), the previous Conference chairman, didn’t want to give up his personal office in 1011 Longworth, so the Conference was split between rooms 1013 and 1010 in Longworth. Boehner still has the suite.

One of the gripes CAO staff have with the Conference plan is that a nonpartisan office that serves the whole would be displaced by an office whose goal is to further the Republican agenda, according to a staffer close to the process.

The office was “counseling people who had lost their jobs. You lose that when the entire operation moves to Ford,” the staffer said.