Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The jockeying begins for the late Senator Inouye's to-die-for Capitol "hideaway"


In 2011 both Senators Inouye and Levin declined to trade up.

by Ken

The late Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii was a lot of things, most of them admirable, and many of them enduringly special. He did a lot of good for the people of his state and the people of his country, and I'm sure that mattered to him.

But the senator was something else, something that probably mattered more to his fellow members of the world's greatest deliberative body (or whatever it was the Senate used to call itself before it became too silly for words) than to you or me. He was, by the time of his death, the Senate's longest-serving member.

Now to you or me that probably wouldn't mean much more than that he'd been around the joint a long time -- apparently couldn't think of anything he'd rather do, and didn't have a lot of trouble getting reelected. But to his fellow senators that longevity meant something else:

Perks!!! And if there's anything pols love, it's perks. I might go so far as to say that if there's 10 or 20 or 100 things pols love, it's perks. And Senator Inouye had a dilly. Let's let the Washington Post's Emily Heil tell the story in this "In the Loop" piece.

In Capitol, prime 'hideaway' spot is available

By Emily Heil

Hot real estate news on Capitol Hill -- and it has nothing to do with a trendy condo development.

One of the most incredible properties in the Capitol building is opening up. The death of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) late last year means that the lovely "hideaway" office he occupied will soon be available.

Inouye was the chamber's most senior member, meaning he had dibs on the choicest of all the private hideaways -- those offices in the Capitol building given to senators in addition to their official spaces. His was a second-floor office on the Capitol's tony West Front, which affords sweeping views down the Mall, that originally was occupied by the Librarian of Congress before the library moved into its own space in 1897.

The former library spaces, which were also later used by the Supreme Court before the court decamped in 1935, are said to be breathtaking, with crystal chandeliers, marble fireplaces and mahogany galore.

Since Inouye's death, the hideaway has undergone a refurbishment -- nothing major, just a little spiffing up, we hear. And soon, the process of passing it on will begin.

Typically, hideaways are offered to senators in order of seniority, which means the space will be made available to the chamber's now-most-senior members, (with the addition of the office space inside the Capitol Visitors Center, even the most junior senator has at least a closet-sized hideaway to call his own).

But those next in line for the Inouye digs, including Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) already have pretty swanky spaces that they might not want to leave.

Some senators make their hideaways semi-public spaces where they hold meetings with staffers and visiting constituents, while others prefer to keep them very exclusive -- keeping their locations secret so they can slip away from colleagues, reporters, maybe even their own staff.
Curious to know more about Senator Inouye's enchanted space, I dug up a June 2011 report by Roll Call's Daniel Newhauser, "Senators Stay Put in Hideaways." It confirms Emily Heil's suspicion that Senator Leahy may be in no hurry to move. Actually, it tells us that this business of space upgrading is more complicated than we uninitiateds might expect. For example, while Senator Inouye was entitled by rank to his choice of available spaces, that doesn't necessarily mean that he had done all the trading up he could have done. It turns out that both he and Senator Leahy passed last time around on the musical-chairs-like hideaway derby, which Newhauser described as "a cross between Trading Spaces and the NBA draft.
Every two years, after some of the longest-serving lawmakers retire or pass away, the remaining Senators start the process of shuffling spaces, seeking to enhance their status with a coveted secret office.

But about a quarter of the way through the process this year, many of the chamber's senior lawmakers are sticking with the spoils of their seniority, content with the plush Capitol refuges decades of service have afforded.
Not all the seniority-rich senators stood pat.
Four of the 10 longest-serving sitting Senators decided it was time for an upgrade, including [Utah Republican Orrin] Hatch, who snagged the legendary space once occupied by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and [Michigan Democrat Carl] Levin, who moved into the impressive hideaway of former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

Hatch said his elegant new third-floor office, with a fireplace, large windows and high arched ceilings, is a significant upgrade, especially because it is just paces from the Senate floor.

"This one has a convenience factor to it that my other ones have not," he said Thursday. "I've had a variety of offices over here and I like this one better than any one I've had."
Senator Levin's move, Newhauser noted, was somewhat unusual, in that he actually had two years' seniority over his new digs' former tenant, Chris Dodd.
[H]e may have been enthralled by the history; the room was the site of Samuel Morse's first demonstration of the telegraph. He may also have been keen on what a former Dodd staffer described as "one heck of a view."

Located in a private hallway near the Old Senate Chamber, the space is not as large as Kennedy's, but it has its perks.

"It has a fireplace in it, and it has a great view right down the West Front of the Capitol," the former Dodd staffer said. "It was a great room. That's one of those things that you acquire after a long and respectable career."
Senator Leahy, whom our intrepid reporter caught ribbing Senator Hatch about the cost of the remodel of his new space (which would be borne by us the taxpayers -- "We've got to maintain it because it was the original library for Thomas Jefferson's books," he explained to Roll Call), explained why he was in no hurry to trade spaces.
"Why would I want to give up mine?" he asked. "I've got the most beautiful view probably in the whole Capitol."

An avid photographer, the second-most-senior Senator, brandishing a professional-grade digital camera, scrolled to a freshly snapped photo to prove his case.

"Recognize that guy?" he asked Wednesday, pointing to a man clad in familiar orange-tinted sunglasses, his arm casually resting on a balcony ledge looking out on a spectacular view of the Washington Monument. "It's Bono."

The seven-term Senator is the proud inhabitant of a first-floor hideaway, formerly the stomping grounds of the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). With a fireplace, built-in bookshelves, a private bathroom and a balcony, it is a rare gem among the Capitol's hidden offices, and certainly enough to impress even a rock star.

Leahy's neighbor, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the most senior Senator, also decided not to move this year, said his spokesman Peter Boylan -- although he did take over the late Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.Va.) sprawling suite, which occupies the entire northwest corner of the Brumidi Corridor and includes some of the painter's famous frescoes. The space used to be Byrd's hideaway before he asked the Rules and Administration Committee to repurpose the President Pro Tem office in 2009 so he could snatch the room next door as well.

That room, a modest space with a fireplace, tall arched and frescoed ceilings and large windows overlooking Lower Senate Park, remained empty as of Friday.

The two Senators' spots are adjacent to the Speaker's office and like Leahy, Inouye's hideaway, once the office of the Librarian of Congress, has a working fireplace and large windows.

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