Trading Spaces On Capitol Hill

Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson looks at the massive real estate shift on Capitol Hill.

2158690A colossal power shift is about to take hold in the nation's capital. Democrats have gripped control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 12 years. So when it comes to America's agenda it means, quite simply, all bets are off.

Democrats, led by the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, promise a flurry of initiatives in the early hours of their command ... working to raise the minimum wage, expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and much more.

President Bush may have been shell-shocked by the initial election results, but has since responded by sending signals of reconciliation and compromise. All of it will be played out on center stage before the American public.

But there's a parallel result of this power shift that's already happened off the center stage. It began in the hours after the elections, proceeded quietly but steadily through the end of November, past Thanksgiving, even marching on through the Christmas holiday season.

Call it "Trading Spaces," Capitol Hill-style.

New Democratic leaders get to switch their off-the-beaten-path and more modest real estate with the cushier, roomier digs formerly occupied by Republican leaders. Democrats are moving furniture, measuring for new curtains and redecorating. Republicans are ... well, they're having to downsize.

And it's not just the offices, the same goes for staff. Now in the majority, Democratic leaders on committees are entitled to larger staffs; more resources. Republicans are having to let some of their best and brightest walk out the door. Where are they going?

Some are hanging around D.C. looking for alternate jobs. Some are returning to their homes in Congressional districts far away. Some have joined K-Street lobbying firms or public relations endeavors.

I've had a chance to talk to some of the lucky Democratic staffers as well as their unlucky Republican counterparts. Their attitude: The Democrats are naturally overjoyed to finally have a turn in the lead role. The Republicans I talked to didn't sound bitter or regretful. They said it's all part of the game.

And in the end, nobody knows when they may be trading spaces again. The possibility is always there.

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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.