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Analysis: New Members Prepare For Capital Hill, Local Lawmakers Eye House Leadership

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Veteran lawmakers and newly elected freshmen will converge at the U.S. Capitol next week as the lame duck session officially begins. They face a lot of unfinished business, much of which could have a substantial impact around the D.C region. But they also will face another round of elections, this time for party leadership, which could allow some local members to move up in the ranks. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks about the look ahead.

On how staffers gear up for the lame duck, and how quickly people move in and out of the Capitol: "It's going to be a very crowded Capitol next week because everybody in the current Congress comes back, including the so-called lame ducks... one of out of every six House seats is changing hands, one of out of every eight Senate seats is changing hands... that's a pretty decent turnover every two years. And the people who are leaving have only until after Thanksgiving to pack up and get out of the way, because the moving crews in the House and Senate have a lot of work to do. The staffers of the people who are retiring or leaving have to wipe the hard drives clean... cleaning up their files, cleaning out their desks... they have to move out by the Friday after Thanksgiving."

On how new members and their staff adjust to life on Capitol Hill: "Some of the savvier real estate dealers in town have already got their lists, and their email addresses of the newly elected members, and are already pounding them with email solicitations. But it's very different than when I came to Washington in the 1980s. Very few members, especially House members, will buy a house in Washington. Most of them will find a very low impact apartment to live in on Capitol Hill or in Silver Spring or Crystal City, close to the Capitol by Metro. And many more than ever before are sleeping on their office couch. They actually have their sheets, and they go down to the members' gym and shower, and they're actually going to live on the cot."

Hawkings says people used to come to D.C. and buy houses, and it was really a boom for real estate. But now people are expected to go home every Thursday and raise money, etc. It's also become kind of a show of honor to sleep in your office. So now it's much more a matter of funding a small, low-key, functional room to rent for a few nights a week.

On which local lawmakers to watch right now: "There are two, and we have a while to keep an eye on them. The House Democrats are actually postponing their leadership elections from next week when all of the other leadership elections will be to after Thanksgiving. That's because Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, says she has not decided whether she wants to remain as the Democratic leader. If she does not, we expect the two highly likely candidates to be from adjacent congressional districts leaders in Maryland -- Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Steny Hoyer. Steny Hoyer, of course, has wanted to have this job since the 1980s, and Chris Van Hollen probably since he got here since the 1990s. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer have a good relationship on the surface. Behind the scenes, they are not close. There is some rumbling at the Capitol, that if Pelosi leaves, she would like to engineer it so that Steny Hoyer never gets to become minority leader, and would in fact, sort of anoint Chris Van Hollen as her successor.

Listen to the full analysis here.

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