Land grab: New lawmakers rejoice, cringe at office assignments

Friday, November 19th 2004, 8:18 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Oh, the decisions a congressman makes. Do you take the large office with new drapes and carpeting a country mile from the Capitol, or the older suite a few strides closer?

These choices were on the minds of 37 new House members Friday in the biannual office lottery, a land rush that can humble any freshman. There was a bit more composure than in past years when new lawmakers were known to sprint across Capitol Hill perusing office options before their 20-minute time limit expired.

Still, it didn't take a mind reader to detect the winners and losers. The lucky and unlucky were all displayed in a House committee room on three huge screens, reminiscent of a bingo hall.

``I didn't pray about it,'' said the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., upon seeing he had drawn lottery pick No. 36 out of 37. ``If I get a closet, I'm hoping at least the door doesn't squeak. At this point, that's all I have to hope for.''

Cleaver landed quarters in the Longworth House Office Building, one floor above Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., who picked last. Fitzpatrick hadn't seen the office he was assigned, but an aide joked it was a nuclear waste site.

The youngest freshman, 29-year-old Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., will probably have the shortest walk to the House floor. McHenry drew the No. 1 pick, choosing a second-floor Cannon office right across the street from the Capitol.

Six of the first seven offices chosen were in Cannon _ but none the dreaded 5th floor, difficult to find because it requires an extra elevator ride.

In their first lesson of congressional decorum, many who ended up there expressed their pleasure with only a hint of sarcasm.

``All along, this is exactly what I wanted,'' said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who picked 35th.