Connecticut Democrats Take Lead Turn On Obama Gun Actions

Connecticut Democrats Take Lead Turn On Obama Gun Actions

By Bridget Bowman, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama had a message for congressional Democrats on the eve of his announcement that he was acting to combat gun violence: Don’t let Congress off the hook.

Three Connecticut Democrats, Sens. Christopher S. Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who represents Newtown, Conn., attended an hourlong meeting with Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday evening along with other members of the House Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, where they discussed Obama’s executive actions that he would announce the following day, as well as their next moves.

“The president underscored a number of times last night that this couldn’t be the end of the conversation in 2016,” Murphy said in a Tuesday phone interview. “He wanted us to message this in a way that kept the pressure on Congress.”

On Tuesday morning, the president announced a series of executive actions that included clarifying a rule to ensure that those who sell firearms at gun shows or on the Internet must have a license and conduct background checks; investing in the mental health system, and calling for more resources for agencies that oversee background checks.

“I think to many of us these appear to be pretty modest steps,” Murphy said. “They’re important, they’re necessary, but they’re totally insufficient, and there’s little room left for the president to act on his own.”

Murphy has taken to the Senate floor numerous times to call on Congress to address gun violence. But, to keep the pressure, he acknowledged there isn’t much more he can do from inside the chamber.

“I wish I had a dozen new tricks up my sleeve but I don’t. The reality is the pressure on Congress is going to come from the outside, not the inside,” Murphy said. “We’re going to need a few cycles in which we win some elections based on the issue of candidates’ positions on guns.”

Winning elections, Murphy argued, is how to address GOP arguments that Congress tried but fell short on more comprehensive gun measures. Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., argued in a Monday statement that Congress has attempted to act on these measures, and they failed.

“(Obama’s) proposals to restrict gun rights were debated by the United States Senate, and they were rejected,” Ryan said, referring to a 2013 bipartisan bill expanding background checks that was filibustered. “No president should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat, not even incrementally.”

“That’s why this is just as much about winning elections,” Murphy countered.

Murphy said Congress is not likely to act on bills relating to background checks, but he pointed to lifting a ban on gun violence research, which became an issue in the year-end spending negotiations, and barring those on a terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms as potential areas for action.

Murphy also suggested there could be bipartisan support for increased funds for the agencies that oversee the background check system and gun law enforcement. Obama said he would be calling on Congress to allow for more funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives so the agency can hire 200 new agents and investigators.

“I think it’s time to call the (National Rifle Association’s) bluff. The gun lobby’s entire response to mass shootings is to enforce the laws on the books,” Murphy said. “The reality is there just aren’t enough ATF agents in order to police gun sales that are exploding in number and venue.”

If Republicans, Murphy argued, want to enforce existing laws, they should support increased resources for the agency that enforces those laws.

©2016 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama stands with Vice President Joe Biden (R) while delivering a statement on steps the administration is taking to reduce gun violence in the East Room of the White House in Washington January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria


Heading Into Endgame, Mcconnell Declares ‘Dysfunction Is Over’

Heading Into Endgame, Mcconnell Declares ‘Dysfunction Is Over’

By Bridget Bowman and Niels Lesniewski, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — He may be fond of saying there’s no education in the second kick of a mule, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is plotting another run at a functioning appropriations process in 2016.

Despite Congress blowing past multiple deadlines to finalize funding the government for the year, the Kentucky Republican said holding more than 200 amendment votes and adopting a budget resolution were successes, though he acknowledged there’s plenty of work left to do before Christmas.

Though President Barack Obama signed a short-term funding resolution to keep the government open until Dec. 16, tough negotiations remain in getting a year-end deal.

But McConnell was undeterred in arguing that the Senate functioned better with a more open process. “I think I can safely say here at the end of the first year of this new majority, dysfunction is over,” he said.

In an interview with Roll Call on Dec. 11 in his Capitol office, McConnell touted successes in restoring the Senate’s productivity, even as negotiations dragged on for a catch-all omnibus spending bill to wrap up before Christmas.

He said that the contours of the budget plan agreed to earlier this fall should prevent the standoff with Democrats over top-line funding levels. That standoff prevented McConnell from bringing each spending bill to the floor one at a time.

“Now that we know how much we’re going to spend next year, I’m prepared to tell you I’m willing to spend a lot of floor time on passing individual appropriation bills. I hope and expect there will not be that kind of obstruction next year since we already know how much we’re going to spend,” McConnell said. “They’ve got the ultimate backstop. The president can veto a given bill.”

McConnell is intent on keeping the Senate running next year, even as the presidential election and hotly contested Senate races threaten to divert lawmakers’ attention from legislating to campaigning. There’s also an unusually long August recess to contend with given the national party convention schedule. Those conventions start in July.

“I don’t think we ought to use the fact that there’s an election coming up as an excuse for not being productive,” McConnell said.

But McConnell also pointed out that being productive is sure to assist the senators running for re-election in key swing states. Of the 24 Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2016, nine of them are among the 10 most vulnerable senators. Seven Republicans are also running in states that Obama won in 2008 and 2012.

“I would have honestly run the Senate this way anyway, because I think it’s what’s in the best interest of the American people,” McConnell said. “But it’s also accurate that the key to our majority lies in purple states.”

“So I think you can ask any of our members from purple states and they’ll tell you they want us to accomplish things, to be effective on behalf of the American people — as much as we can, given the fact that we have a president with whom we don’t agree on very much,” McConnell added.

Always the political tactician, McConnell rattled off the vital swing states, including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. He also said the traditionally Democratic Illinois is a key state for Republicans.

“Except for Virginia, which doesn’t have a state Senate race, every one of those states is going to determine who the president is and also who is in the majority in the Senate,” McConnell said.

Democrats have long argued that they have been far more cooperative in advancing legislation than McConnell and his conference ever were when in the minority.

In reflecting on accomplishments for 2015, McConnell counted not only bipartisan success stories that became law (including the overdue re-write of the education law previously known as No Child Left Behind that was signed into law just last week), but also bills that forced Obama to use his veto pen.

In addition to the recently Senate-passed budget reconciliation bill undercutting the Affordable Care Act, that list includes the legislation that would have approved of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and several joint resolutions of disapproval against Obama administration regulations.

McConnell is well aware there’s much left to do in order to declare his first year as majority leader a success, since government funding remains unresolved. With negotiations ongoing on the fiscal 2016 endgame, McConnell demurred on the prospects that individual contentious policy riders would make the final omnibus package.

Asked about a proposal he favors to allow more coordination among party political organizations, McConnell said, “it would be a major benefit to both the political parties in a period during which more and more information flow is conducted by outside groups.”

“Weaker parties, I think, is not a good idea for America,” said McConnell.

©2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: (L-R) Senate Republican leaders Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Barrasso (R-WY), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) take questions from the media regarding the upcoming budget battle on Capitol Hill in Washington September 29, 2015.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron    

O’Malley’s Pitch To Be Second Choice

O’Malley’s Pitch To Be Second Choice

By Bridget Bowman, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has a message for House Democrats: Let me be your second choice.

“I asked all the members if I could not, today, be their first choice, I would like to, today, be their second choice,” O’Malley said after his Tuesday meeting with the House Democratic Caucus. “And I look forward to their support in the future.”

The Maryland Democrat lags far behind in polls measuring the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, a distant third behind the front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and independent Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders.

So far, O’Malley has scored only one congressional endorsement, from Rep. Eric Swalwell, a two-term Democrat from California. According to Roll Call’s Endorsement Tracker, two House Democrats have endorsed Sanders, while 124 have voiced support for Clinton.

Swalwell said O’Malley’s “second choice” pitch shows he’s “somebody who has been in the trenches of a presidential campaign before. In ’84, he worked for Gary Hart and he saw firsthand, in the field, that these races can change dramatically. So what he’s doing right now is he’s laying the foundation. He’s proving that he’s credible and viable, that he has a line of sight to the nomination.”

Lawmakers said O’Malley received a standing ovation after his pitch in the caucus meeting.

“He was very gracious and, I felt, realistic, in asking the caucus to make him our second choice if he couldn’t be the first,” said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y. “Everybody wants to see somebody work for their vote. And I think there was a recognition that he was working for their vote today.”

Israel is among the nearly two-thirds of the House Democratic Caucus who have endorsed Clinton. The handful of Maryland Democrats on that list includes Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California and Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley of New York also praised O’Malley after their meeting, though both have already endorsed Clinton. Crowley referred to O’Malley as “an old friend,” while Becerra said O’Malley was “a great friend, a great Democrat, and one of the best governors that we’ve seen in quite some time.”

“Clearly he is someone who not only speaks the values of the Democratic Party, has worked tirelessly to get them implemented,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has not endorsed a candidate for president. “So not only does he have the promise, but he’s shown the backbone in the past to stand up for gay couples, immigrant families, or making sure that somebody gets a decent wage, a living wage.”

Gutierrez has pushed for an immigration overhaul, and O’Malley highlighted his immigration stance in a statement sent to the media on Tuesday.

“I think he made an excellent case,” Gutierrez said. “I think he’d make an excellent president.”

©2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Martin O’Malley knows he can’t win the top spot, so he asking to be number two. Edward Kimmel via Flickr


Senate GOP Presidential Hopefuls Take On D.C.

Senate GOP Presidential Hopefuls Take On D.C.

By Bridget Bowman, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — In the course of eight days, two Senate Republicans eyeing the presidency introduced measures to strike down District of Columbia laws, causing local officials and activists to accuse them of using the District for their own political gain.

“I think it’s no accident that both of these senators just before announcing (their interest in running for president), try to use the District as the fallback for their base,” Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), said in a March 27 phone interview. “It’s not as if we have the right to keep people interfering with our local laws. So why not pick on us?”

On March 18, five days before Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced he was officially running for president, he introduced resolutions of disapproval to strike down two D.C. laws he argues violate religious freedom. Eight days later, on March 26, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill that proposes loosening D.C. gun laws, some of the strictest in the nation, and stripping the D.C. Council of its ability to enact gun legislation. And they are not the only likely Senate GOP presidential candidates who have taken aim at the District. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), unsuccessfully worked to overturn D.C. gun laws in the 113th Congress.

D.C. officials say the actions are an effort by Republicans to boost their national profiles and bolster their conservative credentials ahead of a hotly contested primary.

At-large D.C. Councilwoman Elissa Silverman said on WAMU’s “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” last week the lawmakers are “using our city to score political points for the Republican presidential primaries.”

But Republicans say it is about policy, not politics. When asked to respond to local criticisms last week, Rubio said his bill was about protecting the Constitution.

“I favor local control as well, but local control cannot supersede our Constitution,” Rubio said. “The Second Amendment isn’t an opinion, it’s a constitutional right.”

Sean Spicer, the spokesman for the Republican National Committee, also pushed back against the notion the measures are part of a campaign strategy, pointing to the motives for why they introduced the measures in the first place: protecting religious freedom and the Second Amendment.

“I would take them at their word,” Spicer said. “I don’t agree that it’s a strategy.”

But District officials and activists say the timing and the issues point to political motivations, and note D.C. is an easy target due to congressional oversight over the District.

“To say it’s not a strategy, I think, is almost laughable when you think about the fact that these came back-to-back with two potential candidates and they’re targeting readily identifiable parts of the Republican primary base,” said James Jones of DC Vote, a group advocating for District autonomy.

“The main reason people go after D.C. is because it’s seen as a free shot,” Jones said. “They are not accountable to the people of D.C. The people of D.C. can’t vote them out of office.”

Jones and Norton suggested the senators could also be taking advantage of a common misunderstanding about D.C.’s political status.

“Most Americans don’t know enough about D.C. to realize that they do not have this jurisdiction,” Norton said. They both said understanding that D.C. has a local government, elected by the people, is imperative to understand that, in their view, the Republicans are violating federalist principles.

“Imagine what the tea party would think if they really knew that (the senators) were barging in on a local jurisdiction’s entirely local matter?” Norton asked.

The D.C. delegate said she could not remember a time when presidential contenders actively weighed in on D.C. affairs.

“I never remember that,” Norton said. “I’ve never seen people so hungry for press that they stoop this low. Most people run for president on national issues, even if they’re issues like the ones that these senators have targeted.”

A D.C. government official with presidential campaign experience said the senators could be attempting to set themselves apart from a potentially crowded field of contenders. “I think basically the Republican field is incredibly flat,” the official said, noting there is no clear front-runner. “They’re just trying to differentiate themselves.”

One Senate Republican who recently ran for president said he focused more on national issues when seeking to become commander in chief.

“That was not my top priority.” Senator John McCain (R-AZ), told CQ Roll Call on March 26 when asked about the Cruz and Rubio measures targeting D.C. “I thought there were larger issues that I needed to be involved in. If they feel that those issues are important to them, it’s a free country.”

McCain also remarked, “It means they’re not counting on the Washington, D.C., vote.” The District is decidedly Democratic, overwhelmingly handing its three electoral votes to Democratic candidates since it first received electoral votes in 1961.

Asked whether their efforts would help the senators’ national campaigns, McCain said, “Probably. And maybe that’s the purpose. But maybe they ought to make sure that they are driving around Washington in an unmarked car.”

Photo: Jonathon Coleman via Flickr

Congress Investigating D.C. Marijuana Legalization

Congress Investigating D.C. Marijuana Legalization

By Bridget Bowman, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — One day before the District of Columbia is set to legalize marijuana, members of Congress are launching an investigation into D.C.’s decision to do so, and warning that implementing legalization would break the law.

“If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), and Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) wrote in a letter sent to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser early Wednesday morning.

The lawmakers’ committees have jurisdiction over D.C. and the assertion is not a surprise. Chaffetz and others have been saying for weeks that the District cannot move forward with legalization. But in a departure from previous statements where they said Congress did not need to take further action, they have opened a probe and are calling on D.C. to turn over employee information, spending figures, and communications regarding legalization by March 10.

The District is poised to implement Initiative 71, approved by 70 percent of D.C. voters last fall, at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 26. The initiative legalizes possession of two ounces of marijuana and cultivation of six plants, three of which can be mature, for adults over the age of 21.

Congress moved to block the initiative in December by attaching a rider to the year-end spending package barring federal and local funds from being used “to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or reduce penalties associated with the possession, use or distribution” of marijuana. D.C. officials argue the rider blocks enacting any further changes to marijuana policy, but say the city can carry out the initiative because it was enacted before the spending package was signed into law.

Despite the rider, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson transmitted the initiative to Congress in January for a 30-day review process, which ends this week. During those 30 legislative days, a member of Congress could attempt to strike down the initiative by introducing a joint resolution of disapproval, which would need to pass both houses and be signed by President Barack Obama. But Chaffetz, who has experience with disapproval resolutions (he introduced one in 2010 to block D.C.’s same-sex marriage bill), said a resolution was not necessary, because Congress already blocked the law in December.

In their letter, Chaffetz and Meadows stressed that moving forward with legalization would violate the law barring enactment. They also argued the Constitution and the courts grant Congress jurisdiction over D.C.

“Given Congress’ broad powers to legislate with regard to the District of Columbia it would be unprecedented for the District to take actions proscribed by legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president,” they wrote.

Their letter also brings up the possibility that moving forward with the initiative violates the Anti-Deficiency Act, which stipulates D.C. cannot spend money that was not appropriated. If D.C. officials knowingly and willingly violated the ADA, the violation would be criminal, and penalties include a maximum $5,000 fine, up to two years in prison, or both.

As part of their investigation, Chaffetz and Meadows are requesting Bowser provide a list of D.C. employees who participated in enactment, including salary, position, amount of time in the role, and specific actions taken, as well as a list of employees who declined to participate. They also asked how much money went into enactment, including what was spent on transmitting the initiative and developing rules for the police and the public. Lastly, the lawmakers requested “any document or communication” related to enacting Initiative 71.

It is unclear how D.C. officials will respond to the investigation. The mayor, the District attorney general, and the D.C. Council all have been firm in their conviction the initiative can take effect Thursday.

“D.C. residents spoke loud and clear last November when they adopted Initiative 71 to legalize small amounts of marijuana in the District of Columbia,” Bowser said at a breakfast with the D.C. Council Tuesday morning. “And we of course stand together in wanting to enforce the will of the people by implementing the initiative in a safe, fair and transparent way.”

But the letter is teeing up a confrontation with Congress. Even before the letter was sent, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) sent out a statement Tuesday afternoon, warning Republicans against interfering in the District’s marijuana policy.

“If the Republican Congress, which can’t decide to how keep open one of its premier security agencies, the Department of Homeland Security, wants to pick a fight with the District over our local marijuana reform law,” Norton said, “a fight is what they will get.”

Photo: North Cascades National Park via Flickr

Senator Continuing Investigation Into Congressional Health Care Enrollment

Senator Continuing Investigation Into Congressional Health Care Enrollment

By Bridget Bowman, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Senator David Vitter is continuing his investigation into congressional health care enrollment, and he was not satisfied with recent responses from the D.C. government and House and Senate officials.

The Louisiana Republican issued a statement Thursday to announce he’s giving the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, the House Clerk and the Senate financial clerk until Feb. 24 to answer questions and provide documents regarding health care enrollment. He wants to know why members of Congress and their staffs were allowed to enroll in the D.C. small-business exchange, despite the fact Congress does not fit the definition of a small business. The original deadline was Feb. 13, but the responses to Vitter’s investigation were unsatisfactory, so he has extended the deadline.

“My investigation is centered on determining how Congress was designated as a small business in order to exempt its roughly 16,000 employees, including members, from clear requirements under Obamacare,” Vitter said in a statement. “Yet the key players involved appear unwilling to comply with a straightforward congressional request.”

In a letter sent last week to the three agencies, Vitter requested the DCHBE meet with him to discuss enrollment; that House and Senate offices disclose who directed officials to “falsify” exchange applications; that electronic copies of the applications be provided without redactions and that Congress and the district only allow small businesses to participate in the exchange.

Vitter’s request came after documents, made public as part of a lawsuit the watchdog group Judicial Watch filed against DCHBE in October, revealed the House and Senate applications claimed the institutions had 45 employees and classified them as “state/local government.” The electronic signatures, showing which congressional employees certified the applications were valid, were redacted.

DCBHE Executive Director Mila Kofman, who is a defendant in the Judicial Watch case, wrote in a letter to Vitter last week, saying she could not provide documents or information due to the ongoing lawsuit. She also wrote, “Providing enrollment applications for any of our customers would be considered a breach of trust.”

Ileana Garcia, the financial clerk of the Senate, wrote in a letter to Vitter that the Senate Disbursing Office provided data to D.C. Health Link in order to conform with the technological system that could not be altered.

“Administrative offices were instructed to use DC Health Link and understood that, due to compressed implementation time frame, system modifications to the DC Health Link system were not an option,” Garcia wrote. “As a result, it was necessary to provide data that was compatible for system processing to establish the required employer account in a timely manner.”

“[D]espite technical challenges, to the best of the Disbursing Office’s knowledge, this office, at no time in the process, provided any part misleading information,” she later added.

Vitter also demanded answers from the House Clerk, but House Chief Administrative Officer Ed Cassidy declined to provide information, arguing that Vitter’s role as Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee chairman does not give him jurisdiction over House offices. Cassidy noted that his response would likely be similar to the Senate Disbursing Office’s response to Vitter’s requests.

But Vitter was not satisfied by any of these letters. And if he does not get a satisfactory response from the agencies by next week, will there be a discussion about issuing subpoenas? “We’ll reassess after the deadline next week,” Small Business Committee spokeswoman Cheyenne Klotz said.

The investigation is a continuation of Vitter’s longstanding crusade against what he deems the “Washington Obamacare exemption,” or the Office of Personnel Management’s 2013 ruling that allowed congressional employees to keep the government contribution to their health care. On Feb. 13, Vitter sent a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, explaining he is placing a procedural hold on the deputy director’s nomination until he receives answers about the decisions to continue the contribution and allow Congress to enroll in the small business exchange.

Photo: Senate Democrats via Flickr

Departing House Members Begin Moving-Out Process

Departing House Members Begin Moving-Out Process

By Bridget Bowman, CQ Roll Call (MCT)

WASHINGTON — What does one do with 24 golden bulldogs?

“I’m trying to find homes for these things,” said Ed McDonald, chief of staff for retiring Rep. Howard Coble, describing the fiscal conservative awards the North Carolina Republican has acquired over the years. McDonald is packing up 30 years worth of memorabilia and documents before a different lawmaker moves into the Rayburn office.

While members of Congress who lost on Election Day are faced with the unpleasant task of packing up their belongings and moving out, other staffers who work for retiring members, and members who lost their primaries, have been packing up their offices for months.

Rep. George Miller’s staff began slowly boxing up items when the California Democrat announced his retirement in January. But after Congress left for the summer, the staff went into overdrive, sifting through photos and documents to send to the archives at the University of California at Berkley.

“You learn a lot about what he worked on and what we all worked on when you go through all this stuff,” said Miller’s chief of staff, Daniel Weiss, who has worked for Miller for 26 years. “You don’t remember it all necessarily until you touch it again.”

Miller has resided in his plush Rayburn office since 1993, and the high ceilings and picturesque view of the Capitol make it a top target for senior House members who will have the first pick of available offices.

Some staffers have already stopped by to scope out the coveted digs. “You don’t know exactly what they’re coming in to look at,” said Miller staff assistant Rebekah Eskandani, “and then they’re like, ‘Oh, you have a great view. I like this office.'”

Eskandani was one of the staffers who has been packing up Miller’s office for months. Other members who knew they wouldn’t be returning to Congress well before Election Day were also able to get a jump start on the moving-out process, with help from a legion of legislative agencies.

In the House, the chief administrative officer helps coordinate the process, along with the Architect of the Capitol, the Office of Art and Archives and the General Services Administration, to name a few. Staffers from each departing member’s office are encouraged to attend “departing member briefings,” where representatives from each agency are on hand to answer questions.

At the briefings, “subjects range from closing the D.C. and district offices, to returning equipment and the disposition of papers,” Chief Administrative Officer spokesman Dan Weiser wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call.

On the Senate side, the Rules and Administration Committee is in charge of the moving process. Because there are fewer members leaving the Senate, each office meets individually with the Rules Committee to discuss logistics.

The chambers also differ in terms of when departing members have to be out of their offices.

All departing senators must move out by midnight the day before new members take the oath of office at the beginning of January. House members, on the other hand, have to be out on Dec. 1, meaning they will be without an office when the House returns for work in December.

What happens to those House members? They are given a computer and cubicle in the “Departing Member Center” in the Rayburn basement.

“If you ask anybody that’s been through it, they will tell you it’s really an unpleasant process,” Weiss said. “It’s not like we each have enormous amounts of space, but now your office is down to one cubicle. This would be what 40 years looks like: One cubicle.”

Weiss said his staff will receive additional space, due to Miller’s position as the top Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee. But McDonald said his staff will work out a schedule to determine when each staffer will sit in the cubicle in December.

After all of the sorting and archiving are complete, the Architect of the Capitol refurbishes the offices for the new occupants and adds a fresh coat of paint. Most of the furniture is passed on to incoming lawmakers, except for a few custom and personal pieces.

In one corner of Miller’s office sits an antique barber’s chair, a gift from his mother. The chair has become a favorite for kids and visitors, but it will no longer be spotted in Rayburn. Instead it will be heading back to California, along with artifacts from 40 years in Congress, with Miller.

AFP Photo/Mark Wilson