WASHINGTON — Louisiana’s lineup of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives didn’t change in November’s midterms. But nearly all of them have changed offices in a literal sense.
They joined dozens of colleagues in a Capitol Hill office shuffle, trading up for the recently vacated office suites of defeated former colleagues or tossed out of prime digs by the chamber’s change of power.
The only Louisiana congressman to stay put, in fact, is Rep. Ralph Abraham, an Alto Republican who’s now angling to make the biggest move of the bunch, from Washington back to the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge.
Members of Congress divvy up working spaces in Capitol Hill’s three congressional office buildings by seniority, with veteran lawmakers claiming more spacious or better-located offices from colleagues who retire or go down in defeat. Newcomers pull numbers in a lottery to claim the best of the rest.
The multi-room offices generally buzz with staffers, visiting constituents from back in Louisiana and lobbyists and business leaders meeting with members of Congress. Several Louisiana congressmen also live in their offices — spending the night on cots, couches or air mattresses — to avoid renting a place in high-cost Washington.
Abraham, who was just elected to a third term representing northeast Louisiana, is staying put on the fourth floor of the Cannon House Office Building, named for legendary former Speaker Joseph “Uncle Joe” Cannon, an Illinois Republican who lorded over the House from 1903 to 1911.
All six of Louisiana’s U.S. representatives were reelected last fall, and all of them started new terms last week. But the House itself looks …
A couple of former fourth-floor neighbors of Abraham’s — Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans — moved some distance over the holidays, with Richmond finding a new office on another floor of the Cannon building and Graves landing at another building.
But Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier, moved in just across the hall from Abraham’s set of offices, putting North Louisiana’s two congressmen a few feet away from each other on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Clay Higgins, a Port Barre Republican who was among the last freshman lawmakers in 2016 to pick offices after winning office in a December runoff, also moved into a new set of offices on Cannon’s fourth floor just around the corner from Abraham and Johnson.
“The Fourth Floor of Cannon is the place to be," Abraham told The Advocate. "We lost Cedric and Garret to different offices, but we picked up Mike and Clay, so it was an even trade. It does seem fitting that Mike is literally right across the hall since the two of us split north and central Louisiana pretty evenly.”
Richmond moved up to Cannon’s fifth floor while Graves departed for a suite in the Rayburn House Office Building, a neighboring building named for the House’s longest-serving speaker, Texan Sam Rayburn.
The move puts Graves closer to the the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a panel that oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is also housed in the Rayburn building.
House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson Parish, made a double move over the holidays. As a top member of leadership since 2015, Scalise occupied a prime location in the U.S. Capitol, a suite of offices wedged between the grand Capitol Rotunda and Statuary Hall.
The offices, located just above recently departed Speaker Paul Ryan’s, offered Scalise a stunning view of the National Mall — which Scalise often referred to as the best in Washington — and a choice space to host get-togethers with fellow lawmakers.
Scalise renovated the offices after being elected House majority whip in 2015, decorating the walls with Louisiana sports jerseys and renaming the suite’s main space the “Lincoln Room” after beloved former President Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln, who served a single term in Congress before becoming president, spent — at least according to legend — a considerable amount of time in the space telling stories and reading by the fire when it served as a congressional lounge or mailroom.
Alas, the Democratic takeover in the November midterms means Scalise had to give up the set of offices to new House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a longtime South Carolina Democrat who’ll become Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top vote-counter.
The House passed a resolution just before Christmas to make the “Lincoln Room” name for Scalise’s now-former offices permanent.
Scalise moved his leadership office into another space tucked beneath the House Chamber on the U.S. Capitol’s first floor. Last week, an American flag and a Louisiana flag stood outside the door — but workers hadn’t yet hung a nameplate with Scalise’s new title, House minority whip.
Scalise said both the LSU Tigers and “The Who Dat Nation” will be well-represented on his office walls. Scalise also noted an historical Louisiana connection to his new digs: Longtime New Orleans Congressman Hale Boggs, who served as both House whip and majority leader before disappearing in a plane crash in 1972, once used the same offices.
Johnson, the Bossier Republican who was recently elected as chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, will now also hold down a second office in the Republican Study Committee’s work space in the Longworth House Office Building.