In Congress' own version of King of the Hill, Utah's most senior House member has finally gained some clout - at least as far as office space is concerned.
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, has built up enough seniority to move to the most sought-after of three House office buildings. Hansen was originally elected in 1980. Members of the class of '80 finally have enough seniority so a few of them can move into the Rayburn Building.With the retirement and defeat of some members every two years, offices are offered to remaining members, based on seniority. The first pick goes to members who have served more than 14 terms. Every class thereafter takes its turn, using a lottery to decide who gets what.
Jim Barker, administrative assistant to Hansen, said Hansen received a high lottery number among his class of '80 members and was one of the few lucky ones able to move into the Rayburn Building.
Congressmen seek offices there because that is where most House committee rooms are, so they don't have so far to walk to meetings.
The offices are also somewhat nicer than in the Cannon and Longworth buildings. And congressmen there can ride in subway cars to the Capitol, instead of having to walk from the other two buildings.
Hansen is leaving the Longworth Building - which is considered the dregs of the three House buildings, and where all three Utah members had been housed.
Roll Call, a newspaper of Congress, has even called Longworth the "Motel 6 of House office buildings" - meaning it's OK but not luxurious because of its many exposed telephone and electrical wires and disrepair in some areas.
Hansen has had two offices in that building through the years. When he was a freshman, his main office was separated by several floors from an annex where many of his aides worked. His present office joins all his staff under the same roof.
Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, who was originally elected in 1982, gained sufficient seniority this year to have all his staff moved under the same roof on the main floor of the Longworth Building.
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, who was elected to Congress in 1986 after serving one term in the 1970s, remains in an office on the top floor of the Longworth Building.
Even though Hansen now has an office in the Rayburn Building, he may not be in Congress long enough to build up enough seniority to land a top-of-the-line office. He has just been elected to his fifth term, and he is heading a group seeking to limit congressmen to no more than six terms.