DeLay's aides brace for exodus

The desks were still neatly arranged and there were no boxes in sight yesterday morning at the Office of the Majority Leader, but aides to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) are getting ready for a big move and an uncertain future.

When DeLay opted not to seek a return to his leadership post, he relinquished his claim to the trappings of his former power, including an office suite on the first floor of the Capitol and a contingent of more than 20 staffers.

Communications Director Kevin Madden said that members of the staff have begun the process of moving on, even if their computers, papers and knickknacks are still in place for now. As news of DeLay’s decision settled in late Saturday afternoon, his staff members exchanged e-mails over their BlackBerrys, thanking each other for the time shared and wishing each other well with future endeavors.

“The toughest part is knowing that the people I work with won’t be walking into that office anymore,” Madden remarked.

The office will have to be packed up in preparation for the ascendance of the next majority leader in just over three weeks. Chief of Staff Brett Loper “has informed everyone on staff that over the next few weeks there will be transition activities taking place … and to please cooperate,” Madden said via e-mail. “Everyone was also encouraged to ask questions about future employment opportunities,” he added.

The new leader will determine the exact timing of the exodus of DeLay aides from the office suite, according to another House leadership aide. In the meantime, they will continue to be paid under the auspices of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the aide explained.

The staff has continued to occupy the office even after DeLay stepped aside as leader in September when he was indicted on money-laundering charges in Texas (a conspiracy indictment has been dismissed). DeLay continued to use a ceremonial office near the House floor after quitting the post. Madden said that office’s status remains undecided.

“It is my understanding that the room’s assignment is up to the Speaker,” Madden said.

Patrick O’Connor and Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.