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Congressmen lost more than office space
Rep. Pete Hoekstra lost more than just desk space when the anthrax scare closed the Longworth House office building--he lost his home.
For the past nine years, the Michigan Republican had slept on his office couch on his nights in Washington. His suits hang in an office closet and he showers in the House gymnasium.
Since the building closed 2 1/2 weeks ago, he's been staying wherever he can find space. "I kind of play it by ear and walk around and wait for somebody to invite me over," Hoekstra said, only half-kidding.
He says he would draw the line at staying with a lobbyist, and none has invited him. He's stayed in a hotel, with friends in Virginia and most recently in the conference room of Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.).
Major congressional office buildings were closed Oct. 17 after 28 people in or near Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office tested positive for anthrax exposure.
Three buildings--the Hart on the Senate side and the Longworth and Ford buildings on the House side--remain closed, displacing scores of lawmakers and hundreds of staffers. Many are operating out of temporary offices in the sprawling General Accounting Office building, which has been dubbed "Camp Congress."
But the situation is most jarring for the dozen or so lawmakers who, for various reasons, sleep in their offices.
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) has been staying with a friend.
"It's just a matter of bringing an extra supply of toiletries and clothes up from home once a week," he said. "The problems have been for the staff to simply not have access to all the normal tools of the trade."
Some staffers who haven't found desk space just roam Capitol Hill, sharing computers with other staffers and conducting business via cell phone and wireless e-mail.
Sen. Mike DeWine has turned over his conference room to fellow Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich and Voinovich's 36-member staff, who usually work out of the Hart building.
In one corner this week, four legislative aides were typing on computers placed just inches apart on a large folding table. Across the room, the schedule staff worked off laptops and talked on cellular phones. The communications staff monitored breaking news on a small television set. Other staff members worked on pending legislation on the conference table next to a box of doughnuts and piles of papers and coats.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) is another office-sleeper who has had to find a new bedroom since the Longworth building closed. He said the hardship is minimal compared to what families of terrorist attack victims and military personnel are going through.