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The Friday Before Christmas, a Quieter House

It was the week before Christmas, and things were quiet all through the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
It was the week before Christmas, and things were quiet all through the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Incoming Rep. Barry Loudermilk said he was surprised anybody at all was on Capitol Hill on Dec. 19, the last Friday before Christmas.  

The Georgia Republican, who had returned to the gift shop in the Longworth House Office Building hoping to retrieve some misplaced paperwork, told CQ Roll Call he was only around to do a bit of housekeeping in advance of the first day of the 114th Congress in January. He hadn’t seen any colleagues at the Capitol Hill Club, the GOP social spot across the street; he knew Rep.-elect Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., was around somewhere, as he’d seen his car parked nearby.  

It’s true that the activity on the House side of the Capitol settles down considerably in the days after the end of a legislative session, and particularly when the countdown clock to Christmas reaches the single digits.  

The underground Cannon Tunnel that connects the Capitol to the House Office Buildings is normally a clogged artery of aides and lawmakers shuffling to and from meetings, votes and assorted legislative business, but on Friday there were only staffers in more casual recess-attire walking at a lazier clip.  

The frenzy of moving in and out of offices the last week of the 113th Congress had also subsided, and now there were just hallways lined with discarded desks, lamps, end-tables and turned-over chairs.  

The placard marking the Longworth office of Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, was accompanied by a taped-up piece of paper directing visitors seeking the suite’s former occupant, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, to head over to Rayburn. Just a floor below Rep. Paul D. Ryan’s personal office, the grand hearing room for the Ways and Means Committee, over which the Wisconsin Republican will preside in the next Congress, had been totally gutted for renovations.  

Four giant orange plastic tubs stacked together and placed on wheels were waiting in the Cannon basement to be transported somewhere. They were each labeled:

Latham, Tom

IA 03

Young, David

Perhaps Republican Rep. Latham, retiring after nearly two decades in office, was handing over some official paperwork, paraphernalia or decor to Young, just elected in November to be his predecessor.

But despite the more subdued ambiance of the House right before the year-end holidays, plenty of people were still striving for productivity. Lobbyists, advocates, aides and reporters were still meeting for coffees in a room adjacent to the Longworth cafeteria, where the acoustics are so bad that during a busy day the din is deafening.

Capitol Visitor Center tour guides were still leading large groups around the Rotunda and Statuary Hall in bright red blazers. One woman working the cash register at the House Post Office said this was the busiest week of the year, just like it is for the whole post offices across the country.

Perhaps the most unique sighting was of Rita Warren, the 85-year-old woman who sits outside the House side of the Capitol each Thursday, no matter the weather, with a life-size statue of Jesus Christ and music blaring from a boom box. It was a surprise to see her on a Friday, but perhaps the season called for the occasion.

At around 10:30 a.m., she was setting up a true-to-scale nativity scene in her usual spot. As this reporter was entering the building, Warren appeared to be integrating Judaica into the display: She had a large, gold Menorah.


The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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