GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority

The artwork hanging in Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE’s (R-Wis.) office has been ripped off the walls.

Scores of lame-duck lawmakers are temporarily working out of makeshift cubicles in the House basement — a place that some staffers jokingly refer to as “loser town.”

And GOP-led committees are significantly slashing their staffs in preparation for smaller budgets next year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Welcome to life in the minority.

House Republicans — two-thirds of whom have only served in the majority — are not only coming to terms with losing control over the agenda next year, but are also grappling with all the other pains that come with losing power.

That has contributed to a sour and somber mood in the Capitol as House Republicans prepare to limp their way across the finish line, with a surge of members skipping the last few vote series of the year and complicating GOP leadership’s whip operation just before the holidays.

House Democrats, meanwhile, are giddy over winning back the lower chamber and are already gearing up for their newfound majority, which will give them subpoena, impeachment and other oversight powers.

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyDemocrats debate scope of impeachment charges House Democrats rebuke State Department for 'reversal' on Israeli settlements Maloney wins House Oversight gavel MORE (D-Va.), on his way to a meeting with Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing White House, Democrats strike tentative deal to create Space Force in exchange for federal parental leave benefits: report Trump: Fox News 'panders' to Democrats by having on liberal guests MORE (D-Calif.), even accidentally started walking in the direction of Ryan’s office on Wednesday afternoon.

“Where am I going?” Connolly asked out loud, as he turned to head in the right direction. “I thought she was Speaker already!”

ADVERTISEMENT

Republicans lost a whopping 40 seats in the midterm elections, and in doing so handed power back to the Democrats for the first time since 2010.

As a result, leadership offices will soon be switching over, with Republicans losing some of their lush office space with prime views and conference areas. Once able to fit their entire staffs in one office, certain leadership offices will now be split up on different floors.

Democrats will also gain control of the ceremonial offices off the House floor once held by Ryan, Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyDemocrat who opposed Trump, Clinton impeachment inquiries faces big test CNN Pelosi town hall finishes third in cable news ratings race, draws 1.6M Economy adds 266K jobs in November, blowing past expectations MORE (R-Calf.).

GOP members will also now have to get permission to have access to the Speaker’s Balcony — a prime piece of real estate that overlooks the Washington Monument.

And Republican conference meetings will soon take place in the Capitol Visitor Center, allowing the new Democratic majority to occupy the larger and more conveniently located meeting space in the Capitol’s basement.

House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTrump: Fox News 'panders' to Democrats by having on liberal guests Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' MORE (R-La.), who will serve as minority whip in the 116th Congress, said he’s been talking to McCarthy about how both of their roles will change come January.

“Same title, Republican leader, Republican whip, but they’re very different job descriptions, and you know, we’re starting to work through that and focus on how we can be the most effective in our new jobs,” he told The Hill in an interview earlier this month. 

It’s not just leadership that is in for major structural and strategy changes.

The Republican and Democratic committee staffs will also swap offices — and budgets.

The majority is entitled to two-thirds of a panel’s budget while the minority receives the rest of the funds, which has forced Republicans to start paring down their staffs in preparation for the power reversal and has contributed to the wave of Republicans now competing for work.

The GOP staffers will also have to fork over their larger office spaces, which are typically located closer to the hearing room.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is just one of the congressional panels preparing to make the big switch. The majority office seen on Wednesday had bare walls, packed-up boxes and one of its doors off its hinges.

ADVERTISEMENT

Outgoing Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Top House GOP appropriations staffer moves to lobbying shop Individuals with significant disabilities need hope and action MORE (R-N.J.), meanwhile, was seen ducking into his panel’s hearing room, telling The Hill that he was preparing to thank his hardworking staff and say goodbye.

Other members who are on their way out the door — some of whom have been sporting casual looks and five o’clock shadows around the Capitol — appear to have a case of senioritis and have stopped showing up for floor votes, making it even tougher for congressional leaders who had been scrambling to avert a Christmastime government shutdown over the past few weeks.

Last week, outgoing GOP Reps. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaEx-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs Head of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 MORE (Pa.), Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonLongtime GOP aide to launch lobbying shop Katie Hill resignation reignites push for federal 'revenge porn' law Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement MORE (Texas), Dan Donovan (N.Y.), Steve KnightStephen (Steve) Thomas KnightFeinstein endorses Christy Smith for Katie Hill's former House seat Democrat seeking Katie Hill's former seat nabs endorsement from firefighters association Kamala Harris endorses Christy Smith in bid to fill Katie Hill's seat MORE (Calif.) and Raúl Labrador (Idaho) all ditched the vote on the must-pass farm bill.

And GOP leaders were hoping to pass a bill containing $5 billion for President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE’s border wall but struggled to secure the votes. Some of the ousted lawmakers were mocked by Trump after their losses and had little incentive to support Trump’s top priority.

Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsTexas GOP rep predicts heavy Democratic presence in state ahead of 2020 Bottom Line The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - GOP snags mic with impeachment protest MORE (R-Texas), a veteran member of leadership who lost his seat after a 20-year reign in Congress, was spotted on Wednesday sporting a sweatshirt over a collared shirt and holding a box of office supplies as he made his way through the basement of a House office building.

Before continuing on his way, however, Sessions delivered one last departing message to The Hill: “Don’t give up on me!”