At the Capitol: Everything and Yet Nothing the Same
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The sun rose over the United States Capitol. An occasional tourist roamed the hallways. The mail was delivered. But not much else was normal on the day after.
Clusters of House and Senate employees gathered to swap amazement over the magnitude of the Republican victory in Tuesday’s election. For all but the oldest of oldtimers, it was the first time there had been a complete changeover.
Democrats had been the ruling class in the House for 40 years, the time it took Moses to travel the wilderness from Egypt to the banks of the Jordan River. The Democrats were out, the Republicans were in, and one side seemed as stunned as the other.
Terry Dawson, for 11 years a professional staff member of the House space subcommittee, greeted a visitor with ″you got any jobs?″
In a happier exchange, two men were drinking coffee in the Rayburn House Office Building when a friend approached, hand extended.
″Congratulations,″ he said. ″Never in my lifetime did I think I’d see this.″
It was a political tsunami. Victims and survivors were equally numb. The Capitol Hill community of more than 20,000 is facing massive unemployment.
″You can tell people’s party affiliation by who’s smiling and who is not,″ said Lewis Tannenbaum, who works for the food service that supplies the House cafeteria.
In the elevator, a man mused, ″How many people are losing jobs? 4,000? 5,000? 10,000?″
According to the House clerk, 11,600 people are on the House payroll and that does not include people who work for the Architect of the Capitol or the Capitol police force. There are 7,400 employees on the Senate payroll.
Staff jobs on the 21 House committees are divided roughly 2-1 between the majority party and the minority. For the ″in″ party, the jobs are there for the granting.
″I’m in shock and denial,″ said Dawson, the space subcommittee employee. ″None of us believed it would happen, even the Republicans. All of us are starting to look for a job.″
His GOP counterparts on the committee, he said, had a pool on how many seats the Republicans would gain ″but none of them thought they would take the House.″
Kevin Sabo, the Republican counsel of the House Government Operations Committee, which specializes in investigations, said he’s already canceled his plans for Thanksgiving because ″this is not the time to be out of town.″
″When we were in the minority,″ he said - already projecting himself past the Jan. 4 start for the 104th Congress - ″we could have given you a list of what we wanted to investigate, Whitewater, Vince Foster. Now that it’s happened, I’m not sure we want to do that. The responsibility is so enormous.″
It is more likely, he said, the committee will refocus on how well President Clinton manages the government.
″I’m just delighted it happened,″ said Don Upson, former Republican staff director of the committee. ″I think 40 years is enough for one party.″