They've got two new problems with the poor Hart Senate Office Building, the one that has already taken 10 years and $137.7 million to build.
There isn't any new furniture for the offices.
And hardly any senators seem to want to move in.
Both the problems came to the Senate Rules Committee yesterday. Normally Rules would be sympathetic. This time it was not. The committee voted to make fully 50 of the 100 senators move into Hart beginning Nov. 3, the day after Election Day.
They are likely to be the most junior senators. That is because senators choose their offices the way they do almost everything else, in order of seniority, and the senior members seem unlikely to budge.
There are many reasons why. Embarrassment may be one. This is supposed to be an era of national austerity, and somehow the Hart building -- poshest yet on Capitol Hill -- doesn't quite fit in with that.
The furniture may be another problem. Many senators think there should be new furniture in the new building.
It would be unseemly, Sen. James A. McClure (R-Idaho) said yesterday, for the new offices to be furnished with "beat-up furniture dug out of attics and basements." He suggested the committee even consider selling old furniture at Saturday garage sales to raise money for new.
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) also complained, saying that the space dividers in the new office suites are made of "some crummy thing that looks like a dart board."
The committee was unmoved. "It will be like Lazarus," said Chairman Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) as the panel voted not to spend an additional $9.5 million for new furniture five weeks before the election. "Take up your bed and walk."
The committee also heard other objections to Hart, including the "escape" problem. Unlike the other Senate offices, the Hart building was designed with no back-door exits for a senator trying to escape snarling reporters or over-eager constituents.
"There will be no means of exit for the senator except through the reception area," McClure complained. "I don't know who designed it, but they had their head in the sand. . . . If I get stuck in that building . . . I will want a way to have a corridor from the senator's office to the escape route . . . . Every one of us goes out the back way at times."
Senators have also been squabbling over the amount of space they will get and whether it should be assigned equally or varied according to seniority or state size.
Everyone will get a larger office. The number of offices in the Russell building will be cut from 56 to 36, and in the Dirksen building from 44 to 14, with some of the extra space going to committees and staff now housed in annexes.
Members also are arguing over how the extra space in Dirksen and Russell should be allotted. Inouye, who has been in the Senate since 1963 and has the seniority to keep his office on the ground floor of the Russell building, argued that some of the suites on that floor should get a little more space -- nine rooms instead of eight -- to compensate for the lack of a view.
"When you open your window, you look out at a ditch," he complained.
Mathias urged him to think of it as "a moat."
But Inouye insisted his window opens onto a place "where dead birds and dead cats reside." The committee was not persuaded.
Committee members concede privately that they expect heavy resistance when the moment of reckoning comes on Nov. 3, when members, in order of seniority, will choose offices.
As the hearing ended yesterday, Sen. Wendell H. Ford (Ky.), the committee's ranking Democrat, suggested that to avoid attacks by anguished members it might be prudent "to provide some security on the doors of the Rules Committee."
Mathias added, "Maybe we should just move into the gym and barricade the doors with sandbags."