This morning 49 brand new members of Congress filed into a large committee room in the Rayburn office building where they drew lottery numbers as a means of getting in line. Called up in alphabetical order, each member reached into a fancy wooden box covered in a pleated silk fabric, similar to the interior of a coffin (not sure what that symbolizes but that is what I thought when I first saw it), and pulled out a white button with a number on it. When Keith Ellison from Minnesota reached in to find the number 2, he gave a wink and thumbs up as the administrator said over the sound system, "Mr. Ellison drew number two." Applause and cheers erupted and Ellison proceeded to give lots of high fives around the room.
As soon as each member was equipped with his or her place in line, they headed out to walk to the office buildings and check out which ones were available. The office of House Administration distributed sheets of paper listing each office number available with details such as square footage, whether or not it was due for new carpet, and whether or not the office already has drapes. Rayburn office building was off limits to new members as according to the big screen display there is no real-estate available. But Cannon and Longworth were fair game, and this afternoon the newest residents of the nation's capital were walking the hallways, floor plans in hand, looking for what might be available by the time their number was called. Tours were taken, current tenants were questioned, and measurements were taken, all in the narrowing process of office selection.
As soon as the afternoon office-choosing-session opened for business, members were filing in with their pickings, anticipation mounting. Heath Schuler, a former quarterback for the Washington Redskins, was number 46 in the lottery and when I asked him how this process compared to a draft he said: "If this were a draft I would have been picked already."
While no draft, it was certainly one of the more anticipated events of the new member orientation. A few staff members even took snapshots of their bosses choosing their numbers and checking out their potential new property.