Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-Va.) moved to a new congressional office across the hall from his old digs to get a better view. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) moved three floors down in the Cannon Building so he could get to the Capitol without waiting for elevators. And Rep. Roy Dyson (D-Md.) left the Longworth Building for a larger place in Cannon so he could squeeze more visiting constituents into his office.
As the 98th Congress settled in last week, these migrating members of Congress became part of the biennial game of musical offices on Capitol Hill that is played by legislators seeking everything from a picture-perfect view of the Capitol dome to a shorter walk to daily committee meetings.
"The phones don't work and the mail gets lost . . . and the hallway looks like Bekins Moving & Storage," said an aide to Rep. Stanford Parris (R-Va.), who fled during moving week to take a vacation. "The system's ridiculous, but every two years, it happens."
What happens is that every election year, members retire, either by their choice or the choice of the voters, and vacate offices in the three buildings that make up the House complex--Rayburn, Cannon and Longworth. Since all perquisites on the Hill are determined by seniority, the best offices are held by the most senior members.
So serious is the scramble to take over the most desirable of the vacated offices that the House Office Building Commission has adopted a complex set of rules. What it all comes down to is this: the most senior members pick first. A lottery is then held for the freshmen; their place in line is determined by the draw, and they pick among the suites that are left.
This time there were 160 moves in the House, a rather small migration considering that there have been as many as 250 moves in the past, according to Elliott Carroll, executive assistant to the architect of the Capitol, whose office oversees the moves.
The process involves scores of painters, picture hangers, furniture movers and box carriers, each of whom handles a specific duty.
Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone handles the massive job of switching phone lines and had to bring in 35 extra people, some from as far away as Charleston, W. Va., to get the job done on time.
Rep. Jim Moody (D-Wis.) won the dubious distinction of being the last freshman to get moved into his new office--a two-room suite on the sixth floor of Longworth. He was the last link in a chain reaction set of moves that involved six more senior members ahead of him.
It started with the retirement of Rep. L.H. Fountain (D-N.C.), who left Rayburn Suite 2188. Rep. Gene Snyder, a Kentucky Republican with nine terms in office, decided to move there from three offices down the hall.