INDIANAPOLIS - Though he starts his new job Thursday, U.S. Sen.-elect Joe Donnelly has weeks of work ahead of him as he prepares to move into new Washington digs, hire a much larger staff and open offices across Indiana.
Donnelly, a Democrat, will be sworn in at noon Thursday, along with other new members of the House and Senate.
It’ll be his first day, and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar’s last.
After 13,067 votes cast over six terms, Lugar – whose re-election bid was spoiled by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the Republican primary – is leaving as his party’s longest-tenured senator.
Lugar’s offices in Washington and Indiana have been packed up, cleaned out and closed down, with most of the materials in them shipped to Indiana University’s archives.
Donnelly, meanwhile, is currently juggling several offices of his own.
As an outgoing House member, he’s been moved out of his old congressional office and given a much smaller place to set up temporary shop. On the other side of Capitol Hill, he has a small office with other incoming senators. And starting Thursday, he’ll be moved into a larger – but still temporary – office in the Senate’s Russell Building.
Eventually, Donnelly will get his own Senate office in Washington, but it could take a while. Those offices are divided up based on seniority, and each senator gets one business day to determine whether they’d like to move into a new spot. That leaves freshmen like Donnelly waiting weeks to choose last.
So far, he has set up one in-state office – a spot in an Indianapolis high-rise, where Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Coats also has one. He intends to open more regional offices in the near future.
Meanwhile, Donnelly is also adding staff. As a House member, his staff never topped 20 members. Now, he’ll need more than that to handle policy, media inquiries, constituent services, regional offices and more.
The last vote Donnelly cast as a member of the House, and that Lugar cast in the Senate, came on the “fiscal cliff” deal.
“Too many in Washington have allowed their own political interests to trump their ultimate responsibility to work together to do what is best for our country. Moving forward, I strongly believe that we need to set politics aside and work together to reduce spending as we further put our fiscal house in order,” Donnelly said of his goals as he moves to the Senate.
Lugar, meanwhile, will leave office with a 98.27 percent lifetime voting record. He’s cast the 10th-most votes of any senator in American history.