Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Martinez awaits mobile office: "Like many of his constituents back in sunny Florida, U.S. Sen.-elect Mel Martinez and his staff will spend the winter in a mobile home, modest digs in a great location."

"His skeleton staff shares a copier and conference room with other new senators. After Martinez takes the oath Jan. 4, he will move next door, into a trailer in the courtyard of the Russell building—modest accommodations for a former U.S. Cabinet secretary representing the nation's fourth most populous state.

"But like thousands of snowbirds who descend on cramped trailer parks across Florida each winter, it's the location, not the quarters, that counts: It will be just across Constitution Avenue from the U.S. Capitol.

"His office will remain there until February or March, when he's assigned a permanent space in one of the Senate buildings. Meanwhile, Martinez has been interviewing candidates for his Florida director, who will be based at his main office in Orlando. He also plans to open offices in Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola.

"His total staff in Washington and Florida will number about 50."

"Though Martinez served as President Bush's housing secretary for three years before returning to Orlando to run for the Senate, when determining seniority, former House members get priority over former Cabinet secretaries. So of the nine new senators, Martinez ranks above only two, which puts him 98th in seniority among the 100 members.

"But Florida is an important state politically, and Martinez has strong ties to the White House. Last week, he was appointed to four committees that often handle issues affecting Florida: banking, energy, aging and foreign relations.

"In January, he is scheduled to accompany a congressional fact-finding trip to Israel. Martinez, the nation's first Cuban-American senator, said he was thrilled to win the foreign relations spot.

"'Having come from the tyranny and dictatorship of Castro's Cuba as a child, I hold nothing more dear than the American principles of freedom, democracy and human rights,' he said in a statement. 'I look forward to working with (the committee) to both further America's values and ideals around the world and ensure the safety of all Americans at home.'"

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