Many House Offices (Unofficially) Closed

Posted November 4, 2008 at 11:45am

Election Day is not a vacation day, but it feels like it in Congress, where the folks who establish federal holidays are mostly gone today.

A quick walking tour of Congressional office buildings on Election Day revealed piles of unopened mail and bundles of newspapers stacked in front of many locked office doors.

The papers are piled in front of the office of Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) in the Cannon House Office Building, and a call to her Washington, D.C., office this morning was answered by a helpful fellow in Sioux Falls. “If you called the D.C. number, it’s rolling over to here,” he said.

Down the hall at the office of Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), there is another pile of papers and a sign on the door. “Congressman Yarmuth’s Washington office is closed,” the sign says. “If you need assistance, please contact our Louisville office.”

There is also a large pile of newspapers in front of the office of Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), who is in a tight re-election campaign. A phone call to Shadegg’s D.C. office is answered by his staff in Phoenix. A caller looking for the press secretary is referred to the campaign office.

Nobody is home at the Cannon office of Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), and it looks like they have been gone for a while. The newspapers piled in front of his office door include the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. A phone call to his office is answered by a staffer in North Carolina, who provided a reporter with the phone number for “another district office” for more information. The phone number at that office is answered “Hayes for Congress.”

The telephone in the D.C. office of Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) is tended by an answering machine, which invites a caller to leave a message or call his district office.

Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) has a note on her office door announcing that the office is closed today, but helpfully reminding visitors, “Don’t forget to vote!”

Some in Congress appear to have simply decided that today is a holiday after all. Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who is in a runoff today for the right to participate in the general election in December, appears to have unilaterally declared a holiday.

His door is locked, and a phone call to his office is answered by a recording, which explains that the office is closed today “due to the federal election holiday.”

Election Day is a state holiday in Louisiana, but not in D.C.

While the halls of Congress are deadly quiet on Election Day, there are still people working, even in offices where you might not expect to find them.

The doors were open and staffers were milling about in the office of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who is retiring after his failed presidential bid.

A staff member cheerfully came to the door in the Rayburn House office of Rep. Don Young (R- Alaska), who is in the fight of his political life today.

Several staffers in the office of freshman Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) chatted in his Longworth House office, and the lights were also on in the Rayburn House office of Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), who is considered one of the most endangered Democratic incumbents.