Moving on Out: Some Offices Already Packed Up

Posted November 1, 2010 at 7:01pm

Capitol Hill is anticipating a tsunami of moving come January, but a small ebb tide will wash five Congressional offices out to sea in November.

Democratic Sens. Carte Goodwin (W.Va.) and Ted Kaufman (Del.) are finishing moving out.

Goodwin, appointed July 16 to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D), and Kaufman, picked Jan. 15, 2009, to fill now-Vice President Joseph Biden’s seat, will step down as soon as the winners of special elections in their states are confirmed. That could be as soon as Nov. 15, the first day of the lame-duck session.

An Illinois special election will decide the successor to Sen. Roland Burris (D) perhaps by month’s end, as the Illinois State Board of Elections has a full month to confirm the next Senator in President Barack Obama’s old seat.

Meanwhile, two vacancies in the House, caused by the scandalous departures of Reps. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.), will presumably be filled Nov. 15.

All of the offices have been archiving documents and packing to make room for the special election victors, who will move in immediately upon confirmation.

Congress hasn’t seen this many Senate transitions in November since 1964, when special elections brought in three new Senators. That year, four new House Members were elected in specials, too, but the phenomenon is more common in that chamber.

Whether the winners will be seated swiftly sans recounts or legal challenges remains to be seen. But staffers in these five offices aren’t sticking around to find out.

The former offices of Massa and Souder planned to close their doors today. After the disgraced Members resigned, the Clerk of the House took over the abandoned staffers, paying them to work as staff for the Congressional districts.

But today, they are unemployed. As of midday Monday, Souder’s former second-floor Rayburn House Office Building space was tidily empty. Furniture and computers remained for Souder’s successor, expected to be GOP state Sen. Marlin Stutzman.

Of the nine staffers employed there, four had not yet gotten new jobs, said a staffer familiar with the office. But with an imminent GOP wave and a Republican expected to fill that office, the staffers might have good prospects, sources said.

In Massa’s second-floor Longworth House Office Building digs, staffers aren’t so lucky, according to sources familiar with their situation. Former Corning Mayor Tom Reed (R) is projected to win, leaving the Democratic staff with little chance of being rehired. The office was still littered with papers, posters and computer equipment Monday afternoon.

Of the 11 staffers employed there, four resigned, two got new jobs and five stayed on after Massa quit. They have been looking for new jobs, but it’s a hard sell.

“It’s a tough year for Democrats, and then they also had the whole Massa thing hanging over their heads,” a staffer familiar with the office said.

The Clerk of the House provides all defeated or retiring Members’ staff with information about unemployment benefits and interim health care, a source in the Clerk’s office said.

Meanwhile, Kaufman staffers have been packing up personal items for weeks, said a staffer in that office.

“Everyone’s basically in box-up archives mode,” the staffer said, adding that they’ll donate the archives to the University of Delaware. “But we have it a lot easier than a lot of offices because we’ve only been here two years.”

Some of Kaufman’s staff carried over from Biden. If Democrat Chris Coons can best GOP challenger Christine O’Donnell, as he is expected to, some of those staffers have hopes of sticking around for a third boss, the source said.

Burris staffers have been archiving documents, too, but a staffer in that office said that as of Monday, they hadn’t done too much material packing.

If the heated race between Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R) results in a contested election, Burris could keep his seat through December and Democratic staffers will have to wait to see about staying put.

The same stands for Goodwin staffers, who are watching a neck-and-neck race between Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin and GOP challenger John Raese.

Goodwin’s office wouldn’t comment, but packing might be easier for them.

“They haven’t been in office terribly long, so they don’t have 40 years of files to archive,” said Jean Bordewich, staff director of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.