WASHINGTON -- With more than 50 House members retiring and dozens of others evicted by voters, the scramble is on for prime office space on Capitol Hill.
In the three House office buildings this month, the hallways are a jumble of boxes and upturned furniture.
Movers have been working nonstop to make the transition go smoothly.
The task must be complete by Jan. 3, the first day of the 116th session of Congress.
A few of the offices are reserved for particular lawmakers. The House speaker, for example, automatically gets ornate real estate.
But seniority determines the rest.
Incumbents, regardless of party, get first pick. Freshman lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, receive the leftovers.
Two of the four U.S. House members from Arkansas changed addresses this week.
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs moved up a floor in the 110-year-old Cannon House Office Building, switching from Room 130 to Room 209.
The second-floor space, newly renovated, smells like new carpet and fresh paint.
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock relocated to Room 1533 in the Longworth House Office Building, three stories above Room 1229, the space he had previously occupied.
Architect of the Capitol employees were hard at work in the Republican's office Friday morning, hanging Arkansas artwork on the walls.
"The rationale for the move was to get more space for our legislative and correspondents team," Hill said. "It's a productivity issue."
The extra 200 square feet in the legislative office will be put to good use, Hill added.
The 702,608-square-foot Longworth building, constructed in 1933, is an ideal location, he said.
The entire moving process went "seamlessly," he said. In roughly three hours, the furniture had been moved, the computers hooked up and the phones installed.
"My hat's off to the Architect of the Capitol and their team for their effectiveness and courtesy in the process," he added.
For Westerman, a move -- sooner or later -- would've been unavoidable. His old space will be emptied in a couple of years, part of a decade-long, $753 million renovation.
The 826,465-square-foot Cannon House, the oldest of the House office buildings, is undergoing a "top-to-bottom renewal," according to the Architect of the Capitol's website.
The changes were needed to address "serious safety, health, environmental and operational issues that are rapidly worsening," the website stated.
Westerman's chief of staff, Vivian Moeglein, said the old space is about the same size as the new space and will be easy for visitors to find.
"It's fantastic as far as being centrally located for constituents," she said. "You're right off the Metro" -- Washington's subway system -- "and still just across the street from the Library of Congress and the Capitol."
There's no gridlock in the moving business, at least on Capitol Hill: the crews can empty an office in a single morning, congressional staff members said.
Most of Westerman's staff members worked elsewhere Friday morning so they wouldn't get in the way.
"The rest of the staff will show up this afternoon [and] unpack [the] boxes while they're getting computers set up, phones hooked back up, and all of that," Moeglein said. "Hopefully, we'll be ready to rock and roll Monday."
Moeglein showed up shortly after sunrise, bearing two dozen doughnuts from a Maryland bakery.
"You want them to have a good start for the morning," she explained.
Federal employee Randy Windsor on Friday hangs artwork by the late Arkansas watercolorist Elsie Bates Freund in the new Washington office of U.S. Rep. French Hill.
Metro on 12/15/2018
Print Headline: Hill, Westerman get new D.C. office digs; both moving on up to loftier spaces