Duckworth settles into new House office

January 4, 2013

New 8th District Democrat Tammy Duckworth is still getting used to her new digs: Cannon House Office building, Room 104.
 

"Right now it’s kind of a mess," she said. "I’ve got my breakfast on my desk because I’m sitting here eating at my desk so that’s one thing the constituents need to know that I’m working non-stop."

Each of the six Illinois Representatives that make up the state's latest class of US congressmen have been settling in this week to their new jobs on the Hill. But Duckworth is getting a little extra help from both sides of the aisle.

The 8th District Democrat lost both legs and part of the use of her right arm in 2004, when a helicopter she pilot of was shot down by enemy fire in Iraq. Duckworth now has prothestic legs - one decorated with camouflage and the other with the American flag - but she mostly uses a wheelchair to get around.

Usually, Congressional freshman get thrown into the much-anticipated office lottery system. That likely wouldn't in Duckworth's favor, as some of the office buildings on the Hill weren't completely wheel chair accessible.

"The Cannon House office building for example has offices on five floors, but the elevator only goes to the fourth floor," Duckworth said. "I couldn't be on the fifth floor and only have the elevator go to the fourth."

So she asked some of her new colleagues - like Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), the first quadriplegic to serve in the House - for advice. Langvein sent her to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office, and eventually to House Speaker John Boehner, who said she could skip the lottery.

Instead, Duckworth was moved into an office hand-selected for her and made wheelchair accessible by the architect of the Capitol, complete with push button doors and other amentites.

As of now, Duckworth says she's only got a few mementos on her desk so far: an award from the American Legion for work as veterans advocate, and the Doonesbury Comic Strip book "The Long Road Home" by Garry Trudeau that commemorates her time at the Walter Reid Military Medical Center.

Duckworth calls all of the help she's received while settling into her new office a "great example of bipartisanship" — something she says voters would like to see more with the new 113th Congress.