One of Capitol Hill's most valued perquisites office space near the House floor and in the three House office buildings - is under attack by a commission that calls assignment and use of the offices "often uncoordinated, haphazard, wasteful and unimaginative."
The solution to the House's "primary physical problem," says the final report of the House Commission on Information and Facilities, is to oust some of the occupants of those offices, including the Capitol architect, executive branch liaison staffers, the Democratic Study Group and the Congressional Black Caucus. The report was filed Dec. 30 and became available yesterday.
One House leadership aide noted, perhaps in an understatement, that it will get "powerful people screaming on both sides."
Rather than adopting past congressional approaches of recommending construction of yet another House office building, the commission, chaired by Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.) found "no rational systematic plan has been established to determine on a priority basis which functions should be entitled to how much and what kind of space in the Capitol and the [three existing] House office buildings.
"Substantial amounts of space can be made available in existing buildings," the report said, "through such means as redevelopment, relocations of certain functions and improved utilization."
Using its own criteria "based on the character of the functions and the need for access to the House floor," the commission recommended, that:
The House Document Room, 1ocated just off the House floor be moved to the Longworth Building. Its space would be taken by Clerk by the House employees who would leave a two-level office they now have on the Capitol's third floor.
That space in turn would be taken over for off-the-floor work space for 20 members, the report said "on a first-come-first-served basis - to ensure equitable usage . . ." Members then "could do certain types of official business while remaining close to the floor," report said.
The Capitol Architect, George M. White, give up some space on the terrace level of the House side of the Capitol "for possible reassignment for the use of members and committees."
Executive branch liaison offices, such as those maintained by the Defense Department and Veterans Administrations, be moved out of the Rayburn Building, where they have prime space, and put in House Annex 2, the name given to the old FBI Fingerprint Building three blocks from the Capitol, which the House occupied last year.
Functions sponsored by the House Democratic and Republican organizations - their policy and steering committees, caucus offices, campaign committees - be moved from spaces in the three House office buildings and put in House Annex 1, the old Congressional Hotel, or Annex 2.
Unofficial organizations, such as the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Rural Caucus and New Members' Caucus, also be moved down to Annex 2.
Space released by these moves would be turned over to members' of-"average work area now available to each staff person is approximately 36 to 40 square feet." In industry, according to the report, the minium space for compare work and "effective functioning" is considered to be 120 to 150 square feet per employee.
Responsibility for carrying out the commission's suggestions would fall on the House Building ommission and particularly its new chairman, House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill (D-Mass.).
"That's a bunch of recommendations," an O'Neill aide said yesterday, "and Trip hasn't seen them yet." He added that some suggestions "wer good ideas" but carrying them out woule be difficult.
The commission had anticipated that.
"There is a general reluctance to relocate," the Brooks reports states, and a series of letters printed as appendixes illustrated that finding.
For example, Capitol Architect White said his office "is required by law (40 U.S. Code 163) to be in the Capitol building in order to provide the required centralized supervision, control and direction of the activities of the office of the architect."
Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N.Y.), a member of the Brooks commission read the White response and replied, "I think it is extraordinary that the architect would assert that his functions take precedence over the need" of members "for additional space near the House floor."