SOME of the most powerful Democrats in America are split over a most incendiary household issue: rodents."I once had to pick up a mouse by the tail that Durbin refused to pick up," complained Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, referring to his roommate Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois. This characterization is not fair to Mr. Durbin, interjected another tenant in the Capitol Hill row house, Representative Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts. For starters, it overlooks Mr. Durbin's gift for killing rats. "He will kill them with his bare hands," Mr. Delahunt marveled. "Oh, will you stop with the rats," said the annoyed fourth roommate, Representative George Miller of California. He owns the house and is sensitive to any suggestion that he harbors pestilence. It's dicey enough that he harbors politicians. Think MTV's "Real World" with a slovenly cast of Democratic power brokers.
That's exactly what we were thinking! Well, that or a fraternity house. Might make a good sitcom. In case you weren't aware, four Democratic lawmakers share a house in Washington D.C. And if you weren't aware, it's not through any fault of the Times. This may be its most-discussed structure in Washington outside of the White House. After the jump, a trip down memory lane.
Sam cooks, Dick cleans, George collects the rent and Chuck raids the refrigerator. Weeknights, they shoot the breeze in their underwear in the Capitol Hill town house where two of them sleep in unkempt beds in the living room like so many superannuated frat boys, and check to see if anyone they know turns up on "Nightline." Weekdays, as members of Congress, these four help make the trade, farm, environmental and crime laws of the United States. Their little den on D Street may be the capital's highest-powered political domicile outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, so celebrated that it became the subject of a proposed TV sitcom called "Four in the House." (The President has a standing invitation, but hasn't come so far.)
Several longtime Democratic Representatives have been crowding together for years. Charles E. Schumer of New York, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Sam Gejdenson of Connecticut and George Miller of California share a two-bedroom town house on Capitol Hill. Representatives Schumer and Gejdenson sleep in the living room. "The arrangement includes cookies," said Representative Miller, who owns the apartment and has a wife and five children back in Martinez, Calif. "I do the laundry, and Durbin traps the rats."
''He was wondering when it would be over,'' said Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who lives during the workweek in the same fraternity-style Washington town house as Schumer and two other lawmakers. ...Exiled from his suite of offices in the anthrax-shuttered Hart building, Schumer met with a half-dozen aides in his town house's dimly lighted living room, where two beds — his and that of Representative William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat — are wedged in among a motley collection of couches. (Durbin and Representative George Miller, a California Democrat, sleep in the two rooms upstairs.) From this unglamorous warren, he telephoned lawmakers and federal officials.
Since 1982, when he was a freshman representative, Mr. Schumer has lived part of the week with a changing cast of three other legislators at the D Street house, going back every weekend to his wife and two daughters in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The group residence on Capitol Hill, owned by Mr. Miller, has a reputation as a locus of Democratic power. But the two-bedroom row house is also notorious as one of the capital's least appealing crash pads. As part of a generation of legislators who spend the bulk of their time in their districts, Mr. Schumer and his roommates have invested little in their Washington quarters in the last 20 years.
So who puts you up, or rather puts up with you, in Washington? I share a row house with three other men. Until a few years ago, I still slept on the couch. Congressman George Miller and Senator Dick Durbin live upstairs. They each get a bedroom. This has the makings of a television sitcom. Who does the cooking? Not me! There's not much cooking. In fact, when George Miller's son was 18, he sent us venison. It was the first deer he had killed. It stayed in the freezer for 17 years.