Incoming members battle it out for best US Congress suites
WASHINGTON: One woman flexed her biceps and performed pushups, another thumbed her rosary beads, and several danced energetic jigs. Incoming members of Congress will try anything, it seems, to win plum office suites on Capitol Hill.
Friday’s lottery for lawmakers-elect was a raucous, lighthearted bipartisan game of chance for a scarce commodity: a spacious, well positioned workplace in the House office buildings.
Eighty-five members of the incoming freshman class gathered to draw numbered chips from a box, with the thrill of victory going to Virginia Republican Ben Cline, whose lucky number one gave him first choice of available office space.
The event occurs every two years as a new class enters the House of Representatives.
Following a particularly tense 2018 in Washington, the lottery saw incoming lawmakers playfully letting off steam, as when Max Rose of New York bowed down and offered his head for fellow lawmakers-elect to rub for good luck.
But it is actually a high-stakes affair, as the difference between suites can be vast.
Some have sprawling lobbies and lawmaker’s offices with envious views of the US Capitol. Others, like those on the Canon House Office Building’s dreaded fifth floor known as the “freshman dorm?” Not so much.
Superintendent of House Office Buildings William Weidemeyer kicked off the proceedings by positing a “direct correlation” between good luck rituals and the number drawn.
“Gyrations, dances or visible praying is highly encouraged,” he said.
Sharice Davids, a former mixed martial arts fighter from Kansas, received a huge cheer when she dropped to the floor and did pushups before drawing her chip. It didn’t help.
“Oh my god,” she said, looking at her inauspicious number 64. “Don’t do pushups!”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the liberal Democrat from New York, crossed herself and recited a Spanish-language nursery rhyme. (She picked number 40.)
Kim Shrier of Washington performed the popular “floss” dance, a social media sensation for kids. One congresswoman wore red slippers.
Serendipity smiled on soon-to-be congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who leapt around the room and offered high fives after drawing number 8.
“That’s how we do it in Detroit!” she proclaimed.
The agony of defeat was reserved for Tennessee’s Mark Green, who drew the dreaded number 85 — and a standing ovation from colleagues, perhaps out of relief that their numbers were better.