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Worst House Office Goes to New Yorker

November 22, 1998| From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — November had been a pretty good month for John Sweeney. The New York Republican won a seat in Congress, sat on a panel that doled out House committee assignments and ended up with the appointments he wanted.

Then came Saturday morning.

Sitting expectantly in the Cannon Caucus Room, Sweeney watched as an aide drew chip No. 39 in the lottery to allot office space to first-year Congress members. Being that there were 39 numbers in the box, and given that all of the more senior members had already picked their work space, Sweeney "won" the worst office in the 435-member House of Representatives.

A groan bellowed from the congressman-elect and his supporters, but everyone else cheered. At midday, after examining all the available offices, the freshmen reassembled and made selections based on their lottery numbers.

Although none came out of the lottery with choice space--they are freshmen, after all--the others knew they had been spared Sweeney's fate: A fourth-floor office, divided by a public restroom, overlooking a courtyard.

Room 437 of the Cannon House Office Building. The worst of the worst.

"When you pick 39th, it's a bad way to start a day," said a chuckling Sweeney, who is replacing retired Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-N.Y.).

The No. 1 chip went to New York Republican Tom Reynolds, who is replacing retired Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.).

Congress, like other legislative bodies, is governed by the rules of seniority. Simply put, the more time you're there, the greater the perks.

House office space is split among three buildings: the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn buildings. While all are across Independence Avenue from the Capitol, Cannon is coveted for its views, Longworth for its location between the others and Rayburn--the newest addition--for its more modern amenities.

The House allots each member a minimum of three office rooms, and nearly all are in a suite that includes an office for the member and rooms for a receptionist and staff. The Senate is much the same, but because is has only 100 members spread through its three office buildings, the variance from best to worst is not as great.

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