Office Dominoes Knock House Appropriators From Prime Space

Posted January 3, 2011 at 11:00pm

The House Appropriations Committee will move this month from prime office space next to the House floor to an out-of-the-way office tucked in the Capitol sub-basement, a GOP aide confirmed Monday.

The change displaces the House Ethics Committee, which will move to another subterranean space in the Longworth House Office Building, but the panel will gain a larger hearing room in the transition. Its new basement office is located near the busy Longworth cafeteria.

The Appropriations Committee will maintain its front office on the Capitol’s third floor, outside the House spectator’s gallery.

The office shuffle started after Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced last month that he would commission the construction of the first women’s restroom near the House floor.

The lavatory will be built in what is currently the Office of the House Parliamentarian, which will be relocated to the current ceremonial Speaker’s office, and a new Speaker’s office will be built in the large office suite that has been used by the appropriators. That space is located near the men’s restroom on the Republican side of the chamber.

The downgrade in the appropriators’ office space overlaps with the panel’s diminishing influence. The committee is shifting from a spending role to a savings role amid House Republicans’ promises to cut the Congressional budget, and Members have not clamored to join the panel in the 112th Congress.

GOP transition spokesman Brendan Buck downplayed the significance of the Appropriations Committee move on Monday, and he sought instead to emphasize the benefits of relocating the ethics committee to Longworth. The new location will be more convenient for Members and staff who want to stop by for advice or paperwork, he said.

“While investigations receive the most attention, one of the most important roles of the ethics committee is providing advice and guidance to Members,” Buck said. “This prominent new location will bring the committee and its staff closer to the member offices that they serve.”

The new ethics space comes with a hearing room on Longworth’s first floor that was previously used by the Joint Committee on Taxation. The ethics panel has had to borrow space from other committees in the past because the Capitol sub-basement office was not large enough to conduct major hearings. For instance, the recent trial of Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) took place in the House Administration Committee’s chambers.