Architect begins preparations for Franken

The half-full bottle of Pepto Bismol will probably be gone from the bathroom cabinet of Room 320 when Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-Minn.) takes it over from former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) next week.

And if the Architect of the Capitol (AoC) does its job well, there won’t be much of any trace that Coleman occupied the blue-carpeted maze of offices on the Senate Hart Office Building’s third floor.

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Cleaning out an office’s nooks and crannies is just one of the many steps the AoC takes to ensure a smooth physical transition into Congress for a new member, albeit even one taking office eight months after an election.

As soon as word spread that the Minnesota Supreme Court’s certification was official and that Franken was to be Minnesota’s next sitting senator, workers began preparing Coleman’s former office for the arrival of the comedian-turned-politician and his staff.

But contrary to recent media reports, Franken’s name plaque still remains to be officially mounted outside of Room 320 and the space next to his front door continues to be vacant. Yet photographs –- reportedly taken by a Senate staffer –- of the sign with Franken’s name intact, appeared online on Wednesday.

According to a worker familiar with the office cleaning process, the temporary mounting of the sign was likely just to make sure it fit into place for next week’s official mounting.

The Senate Rules Committee is expected to direct the Architect of the Capitol (AoC) to officially install the sign outside his office sometime next week according to a committee aide.

Franken’s name plaque is going to be one of the last steps the AoC takes in welcoming him to Capitol Hill, and will probably involve a photo-op with the press, following his expected swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, other signs of Franken’s imminent arrival on the Hill are widely apparent in the office’s vicinity, as the strong scent of paint fumes waft through the open-air corridors of Hart and white drop-clothes spill out into the hallway.

“We have already begun the transition,” said Eva Malecki, spokeswoman with the AoC. “Specifically we coordinate with his designee the selection of paint colors in his suite and we will paint the entire suite, clean/dust furniture, mount television brackets, shampoo the carpet, etc.”

Coleman’s former furniture –- desks, couches, chairs, file cabinets –- will all be given to Franken, and as all senators do, Franken will have the opportunity to select from other sets of stock furniture that the AoC provides if Coleman’s choice is not to his liking.

At present though, all of the office’s furnishings are shoved into the middle of each room with sheets of plastic over them and buckets of paint surrounding them. Numerous tool carts sit haphazardly throughout the office suite, which also includes an upstairs series of cubicles.

Like napping giraffes, two giant personnel lifts that workers use to reach the more than 20-feet tall ceilings with swabs of paint sit next to chair. Some of the chairs are new with Body Bilt brand tags still on them, while others are hand-me-downs with “MN” tagged on them.

Several bundles of Coleman’s mail – newspapers, postcards, magazines -- also sit in the office suite as if foreshadowing the tons of paper and office supplies Franken will no doubt accumulate within weeks of his arrival.

“We will provide the necessary labor support to move the Senator and his staff into the suite and then provide ongoing services such as daily cleaning,” said Malecki.

The office suite has been empty since the end of January when Coleman and his staff were ordered out until the election was resolved. Shortly thereafter, piles of office supplies lined the hallways of Hart’s third floor, free for the taking.