Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ex-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer walk from the House floor where members debate the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to the speaker’s office in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 19, 2019.
Sarah Silbiger | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Republican leaders abruptly evicted two high-profile Democrats from their longtime Capitol hideaway offices without explanation after the House removed Kevin McCarthy as its speaker.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ex-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer were both told their small but coveted second offices within the Capitol will be “re-assigned.”
Spokespeople for McCarthy, a California Republican, and the new temporary speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., did not immediately respond when asked what spurred the evictions.
But a close ally of McCarthy’s, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., said Pelosi’s office would go to McCarthy.
“The office that Pelosi is in right now is the office of the preceding speaker. Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats determined that they wanted a new preceding speaker, and it’s Kevin McCarthy. So he’s getting the office,” Graves told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, N.Y. said Tuesday that his caucus remained “willing to find common ground on an enlightened path forward,” and blamed Republicans for their “unwillingness” to break with ultra hardline positions.
Pelosi, who retains her district seat from California, noted that the eviction notice came as she was traveling to San Francisco for the funeral of her longtime friend, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died Friday.
The harsh break with tradition came after every Democrat in attendance in the House sided with eight breakaway Republicans on Tuesday to oust McCarthy.
“One of the first actions taken by the new Speaker Pro Tempore was to order me to immediately vacate my office in the Capitol,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday night.
“Sadly, because I am in California to mourn the loss of and pay tribute to my dear friend Dianne Feinstein, I am unable to retrieve my belongings at this time.”
Pelosi noted that after she was first elected speaker, she gave her predecessor, former Republican Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, a large suite of offices in the Capitol to use as long as he wanted.
“Office space doesn’t matter to me, but it seems to be important to them,” she said Tuesday.
The hideaway offices in the Capitol, which are considered perks, are doled out by the party in power to leaders on both sides of the aisle.
Despite losing their hideaway Capitol spaces, Pelosi and Hoyer will both retain their big congressional offices in the Longworth House Office Building.
Republican lawmakers are furious with Democrats for siding with the hardline conservatives and their leader, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in his motion to remove McCarthy as speaker.
A longtime McCarthy antagonist, Gaetz is considered by many rank-and-file Republicans to be more interested in grabbing public attention than in legislating.
After he was ousted, McCarthy on Tuesday evening said that when he was elected speaker in January, Pelosi had promised him she would “always back you up” if a member of the GOP caucus introduced a motion to vacate.
But when the ax finally fell, Pelosi was not in Washington to help McCarthy out.
“Today was a political decision by the Democrats,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol.
Graves also blamed Democrats for McCarthy’s ouster. “I don’t know what they’re complaining about,” he said of the office evictions. “They created this situation.”
Jeffries disagreed. The reason for the speakership battle, he said, was that House Republicans had empowered “extremists to paralyze the institution.”