Ted Budd walked past a congressional office filled with people Tuesday, then did a double-back when he realized that the space was his.
“I hadn’t met you before,” Budd told a visitor after he settled into his office. “I’d hate to walk into your office and have to explain myself.”
By late afternoon the surroundings became more familiar as Budd, gun shop owner, was sworn in as Rep. Ted Budd, Republican freshman from North Carolina’s newly redrawn 13th Congressional District.
Well-wishers and fellow members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation streamed into Budd’s first-floor Cannon House Office Building space to congratulate him.
“I’ve told him about pitfalls and different things when you’re organizing an office, when you’re hiring a staff,” Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., a longtime friend of Budd’s, said before visiting the freshman’s office. “I’ve given advice on committee assignments, trying to be generally helpful without being pushy.”
Budd survived a 17-person Republican field and defeated Democrat Bruce Davis, a former Guilford County commissioner, to win in his first campaign for elective office.
“It’s a weighty privilege, a positive privilege,” Budd said. “But you feel the weight.”
He attended initiation sessions for new House members in December and participated in a lottery to select his office, a sweepstakes that Andrew Bell, Budd’s chief of staff, likened to the National Basketball Association draft.
“As soon as soon you get your number, you’re on the clock,” Bell said.
Budd drew the 31st pick out of 51 then quickly scoured his options, visiting offices of lawmakers who either lost, were retiring or were moving on to lusher digs.
He settled on a first-floor space in the Cannon Office Building that belonged to Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., who relinquished it for a larger office in a different building and to avoid construction noise during a massive, years-long renovation of Cannon.
The project didn’t deter Budd, who picked the office after he and his staff timed it and other spaces for how long it would take him to get to the House floor for votes.
“We wanted a low-friction environment so we could focus on other things,” Budd said. “Getting to a vote, having that freedom, if we need to talk to someone along the way, we can certainly do that without having to be in too much of a hurry.”
The office will be more than a place to work for Budd – he plans to bunk there. His office has a wall unit that looks like a large desk but folds down into a Murphy-style bed.
He’s joining a congressional slumber party of more than 50 House members who avoid paying Washington area’s high rents or eschew living in an adult group house by making their offices into a home away from their district home.
“I see a lot of people coming to Washington in my freshman class having to spend cognitive time to get moved into a new place – that’s a big enough stresser on its own. It’s freeing up cognitive load and freeing cognitive space to make other decisions. I was able to work with Andrew and not be distracted by sheets and linens and location and walk time and all that.”
He said the sleepover will also help him bond with fellow lawmakers.
“It creates camaraderie,” Budd said. “One of the byproducts is when you meet in the gym in the morning and you’re exercising, it’s a great place to meet.”
With his living situation squared away, Budd said he’s prepared for an ambitious first 100 days in Congress as the Republican-controlled House and Senate embarks on a legislative agenda that includes rolling back the Affordable Care Act, undoing Obama-era regulations that they say hurt business, and crafting a short-term and long-term budget.
“One of the things I want to focus on is reining in some of over-regulation that’s been done that I think has been hurting our economy,” Budd said. “The priorities have been set, and I want to help with those and make sure we don’t forget why I was sent here, and that’s to bring government back to the will of the people.”
Hudson said he’s given Budd and other newly elected members a key piece of advice before things get too busy on Capitol Hill: Don’t forget home.
“Everything here is important, you could do 48 hours of important stuff, but you’ve got to block the family time first,” Hudson said. “When I first came to town, I said to my staff, ‘No matter how long I’m here, no matter what we accomplish, when I leave office my marriage will be intact, my integrity will be intact. That’s your mission to help me achieve that.’”