MacArthur and LoBiondo Closing Congressional Offices

Nov 28, 2018

Moving out of an old house into a new one is often a pain, and that holds true when the house in question is the U.S. House of Representatives.

And there’s a whole lot of moving in the House this fall, as 87 new representatives-elect replace retiring or defeated incumbents.

“South Jerseyans deserve a seamless transition and my staff and I are working diligently to prepare New Jersey’s Third Congressional District’s offices for Congressman-elect Andy Kim,” wrote outgoing Rep. Tom MacArthur last Wednesday. “In accordance with House Administration Committee guidelines, my Washington, D.C. office will close on November 27 to prepare for incoming members.

“Our Burlington and Ocean County offices will close on Friday, December 21. The district offices are not able to accept any new cases (of constituent service). We have notified constituents with open casework that their cases can be transferred to Senators Menendez or Booker, or can wait for Congressman-elect Kim to open his office. If you have any questions, please contact our staff at (856) 267-5182 or (732) 569-6495. We are in the process of contacting every constituent with an open case.”

Retiring Congressman Frank LoBiondo, who represents New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, including all of Southern Ocean County save half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township, simply posted a notice on his official website regarding his departure. “Closure of Mays Landing Office, December 21, 2018: Congressman LoBiondo’s office will officially close. All future requests for assistance should be directed to the new Representative-elect (Democrat Jeff Van Drew) for New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District.”

LoBiondo moved out of his D.C. Office on Nov. 16.

So, constituent services will basically grind to a halt during the Christmas season. Veterans could be especially impacted as thousands of them have not been receiving GI Bill educational and housing benefits this fall because of serious problems with the Veterans Administration computer system.

On a lighter note, holiday visitors to the nation’s capital may have trouble getting tours of the Capitol building, tours that are often arranged through congressional offices.

“Any constituents wanting to request U.S. Capitol tours can do so through Senators Booker or Menendez, or through the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center,” advised MacArthur.

Kim and Van Drew won’t automatically inherit the offices of MacArthur and LoBiondo. Representatives try to be assigned plum office space at the beginning of each new Congress. Some important considerations include proximity to a member’s committees’ meeting rooms or an ally’s office, how close they are to the tunnels that link the Capitol to congressional office buildings, and nearness to elevators. More prosaic concerns include the view from the congressperson’s window or closeness to the House gym.

There’s a pecking order when it comes to office selection. Seniority plays a role, with senior members getting first choices, often setting up a train of changes. Newcomers have to participate in a lottery, picking a numbered chip which determines how quickly they will be able to select their offices.

By the way, a similar procedure controls where representatives sit when actually in the House chamber.

Office chairs aren’t the only seats being handed off in Washington. Numerous political games of musical chairs are also being played in the District of Columbia.

Because Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, when the 116th Congress is sworn in, that body’s 21 committees and 95 subcommittees will have new chairpersons.

Meanwhile, representatives-elect are already scrambling, cajoling, negotiating or plain out begging for seats on choice committees, either those considered more powerful or important such as the House Ways and Means Committee that designs tax policies, or one related to a particular concern of a district. For example, a congressperson with a large military base in his or her district, such as Andy Kim, the Democrat who will represent New Jersey’s 3rd District, including the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township, in the new Congress, would surely appreciate a seat on the House Armed Services Committee, the better to protect Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

  Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

 

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