By Jordy Yager - 01/19/09 06:38 PM EST
For Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama Justice Department makes case against single-payer healthcare Understanding why populist fires are still 'Berning' Clinton at risk of being upstaged MORE’s Inauguration, Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) bought an air mattress.
Serrano, like many lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides, has several relatives and friends coming from his congressional district for Tuesday’s big event, which is expected to draw up to 4 million people.
With area hotels long sold out and prices for apartment rentals going for thousands of dollars, members and their staff are opting to put up family and friends — no matter the discomfort it brings.
The gracious Serrano said he’s planning to give his bed to two relatives bunking with him in his Virginia apartment, and he’ll take the air mattress.
But not all are so willing to give up their beloved beds.
“I’m expecting somebody’s going to end up on our floor, but I don’t know who it will be,” said Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), who is still working out how many guests are staying with him.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) also has no problem making guests stay on the floor. “I have people coming in and staying everywhere,” he said, noting that his sisters, their husbands, his mother-in-law and other relatives will all be here. “Some are staying with my staff.”
And some will sleep where they can. “Well, there’s floors,” he said.
Meek reasoned, “It’s history and maybe once in a lifetime and no one wants to miss it.”
Hodes’s wife and daughter, a senior at American University, will join him for the event. But beyond family, hundreds of constituents are planning to make the 400-mile journey from the Granite State.
But that trek pales in comparison to the one being made by the hundreds of constituents and family from Rep. Shelley Berkley’s (D-Nev.) Las Vegas district.
“Everybody’s coming,” she said. “My husband’s coming, my two stepchildren, my two children, my sister, my brother-in-law and several hundred Nevadans.”
The details of where everyone is going to sleep were still being worked out last week.
“We have one on a blow-up mattress,” she said. “Someone will be futon-ed and another will be on the blow-up mattress. My adult children will be as they were as babies, in between my husband and I.”
For Inauguration eve, Berkley and her family planned to have a tent erected in her backyard and host a party for the hundreds of Nevadans who have traveled the 2,400 miles.
Aides are planning to play host and concierge to visiting family and friends as well. Rep. Bobby Rush’s (D-Ill.) Capitol Hill staff has friends and family, spanning four generations, coming for Obama’s swearing-in.
Aysha House-Moshi, legislative director for Rush, will welcome her grandfather, who had been planning since Nov. 5 to drive up with nearly 30 members of his Southern Baptist church in Florida.
The 70-year-old African-American and his friends could not find lodging in the D.C. area. So they are spending the night in North Carolina and driving to Maryland early Tuesday morning, where they will park the bus and meet House-Moshi as they cram on the Metro and travel into D.C.
House-Moshi’s sorority sister is coming to stay with her for the event with her two children — ages 2 and 4. Two others will sleep on her couch.
“I think it’ll probably be a madhouse at Costco the weekend before, but it’s what you do to be part of history,” she said, adding that she’s not charging her guests for their stay. “I’m just hoping for everyone’s sake that it doesn’t rain and that it’s not too cold.”
Rush’s staff assistant and former Obama intern Nishith Pandya worked at the Democratic National Convention last year in Denver. He stayed with a local friend for the week’s events, with the condition that he put her up for the Inauguration, if Obama won the election.
Sharon Jenkins, Rush’s director of media relations, has two friends coming in for the event.
While one of Jenkins’s friends coming in from Los Angeles will be staying with her, the other friend, Rivienne Shedd-Steele, is staying in a local hotel. Shedd-Steele had booked a separate hotel room for friends, but when she discovered that the friends weren’t coming, she donated it to some of the Tuskegee Airmen — the first African-American military airmen who fought in World War II. The airmen, who were invited to the Inauguration by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDems urge Obama to release info on Russian links to DNC hack Hotel lobby cheers scrutiny on Airbnb GOP platform attempts middle ground on encryption debate MORE (D-Calif.), have reportedly had a hard time finding lodging.
Officials are planning to operate the Metro train system at “crush level” throughout the day, as they expect to be overwhelmed with riders.
The Secret Service last week announced that traffic over the Potomac River bridges leading into D.C. from Virginia would be restricted to emergency vehicles, taxis and pedestrians.
Like their constituents, lawmakers are worried that they will not be able to move about that day because so many people will be using the limited means of transportation in and out of D.C.
“I’m terrified that [Obama will] be sworn in and I’ll be caught in traffic somewhere,” said Serrano, whose apartment is in Arlington.
Hodes, who lives in D.C., shared Serrano’s concern.
“I think it [the bridge restrictions] creates a real logistical nightmare,” he said. “It may limit what I can do on the day of the Inauguration because right now we have a New Hampshire-South Carolina ‘Grits and Granite Ball’ that’s across the water [in Arlington] and the official New England Ball is in Union Station. So what am I supposed to do, swim?”
Hodes said New Hampshire visitors may try to find other means to come in to D.C.
“I understand that there’s a wagon train coming down from Concord,” he joked. “I think they’re coming in Concord coaches, mostly by horse, so that they can ford the Potomac.”
Republican lawmakers are not exempt from having family crash the event. But Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) doesn’t foresee a sleeping issue.
“Well, I hope my wife will be sleeping with me,” he said.