WASHINGTON — Maine’s U.S. Sen. Angus King and his staff are busy packing and unpacking boxes once again this week — this time to move into permanent digs.
After five months in a cramped temporary office in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building, King and his staff finally were given an official office Tuesday in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, complete with a bronzed nameplate and a Maine state seal adorning the entryway.
The wheels of government move slowly in Washington under normal circumstances. This year, the size of the freshman class of senators and the budget cuts known as sequestration caused King and other senators to wait even longer than normal to move into their new spaces.
Not that King was complaining Tuesday.
“I like it a lot,” he said while standing in his personal office, its floor littered with unpacked boxes and its walls still largely bare. “We were surprised that such good space was available. It is easy to get from here to the (Senate) floor or to my committees.”
The office buzzed with activity as staffers unpacked boxes, rearranged furniture and began talking about which picture or painting of Maine to hang where on the newly painted walls. With a total of about 3,400 square feet, the suite is composed of nearly a dozen rooms laid out in a straight line and connected by doors. The office, occupied last by Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, is filled with natural light and offers views of the Capitol from some windows.
In his personal office — a spacious room with dark red walls and ornate, walnut-colored wood trim — King was determined to find a proper home for his bust of Joshua Chamberlain, a former Maine governor and president of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, where King lives.
Chamberlain eventually was placed at the center of a lighted wooden cabinet built into a wall.
Along the opposite wall — at least for the time being — was King’s desk, which has its own Maine lineage. King inherited the desk from his predecessor, Republican Olympia Snowe, who inherited it from Sen. George Mitchell. Before Mitchell, the late Sen. Edmund Muskie used the desk, according to King’s staff.
Senators’ offices are in three sprawling buildings connected by basement corridors and a subway system that leads to the Capitol.
As with everything in the tradition-bound Senate, a senator’s choice of office depends on his or her seniority.
Not surprisingly, larger offices or those with prime views of the Capitol often are taken by the most senior members. Even incoming senators are subject to the rules of seniority among each other in selecting what’s left.
A freshman senator who has served in the House ranks higher than a freshman who has not. A former governor ranks higher than a former state attorney general. As a former governor, King was No. 95 in the 100-seat Senate and so somewhat limited in his choice of offices.
Kevin Miller — 317-6256