Blog | U.S. Congress: Office by Day, Bedroom by Night
Did you know that 20 percent of freshman members of the U.S. House of Representatives live in their offices? Yes, you heard right. Forget the fancy row home in Georgetown; these guys rough it on couches, air mattresses and roll-away beds in their Washington offices.
CBS News recently surveyed all freshmen members of Congress and found that 21 out of 96 of them actually slept in their offices. This trend isn’t limited to the U.S. Congress; a blogger on AL.com found at least three Alabama state senators who sleep in their statehouse offices during the legislative session.
While members of the Alabama statehouse receive a $50 per diem to off-set the cost of lodging, many say they can save money by pocketing the stipend and sleeping in their offices.
“Once I’m here, I’m here to work,” Alabama State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw told the Huntsville Times. “It’s also a matter of, I guess, the most economical, safe hotel room I could find in Montgomery was about $80 a night.”
While rank and file members of the U.S. Congress make a decent salary ($174,000 a year), they don’t receive a per diem. If you think this is unfair, consider that for most of the period between 1789 and 1855, the only compensation senators and representatives received was a $6 per diem. (They probably had to sleep in their office!)
Considering how pricey rent is in the capitol (according to rentjungle.com the average rent in D.C. is $1,840 a month), it’s understandable why some reps opt for an air mattress.
Of course, several congressmen told CBS News that they had political reasons for sleeping where they work: they didn’t want to be perceived as being too much a part of the Washington political machine.
“I think it’s important that we show we don’t live here, we are not creatures of this town,” Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh told CBS News. “There’s so much to do the next two years, I don’t want to be distracted with another place. I don’t want to have to think about an apartment.”
It doesn’t hurt that these penny-pinching congressmen can tell their constituents how frugal they are.
So what do these offices that double as apartments look like?
According to TheBlaze.com, members of Congress have three-room suites, some of which have a bathroom and a small kitchen. For those without their own bathroom, there’s a gym where they can take showers. They can also stow food in their offices, or, as with one resourceful representative, in a supply closet next to dry cleaning.
While there are no rules prohibiting the practice, at least one watchdog group wants to launch an investigation.
According to the DailyHerald.com, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington say that congressmen sleeping in their offices poses an added burden to the housekeeping staff and that these representatives should be paying taxes on where they sleep.
We don’t know about you, but paying taxes for sleeping on a couch just sounds like politics to us.
First photo courtesy of TheBlaze.com. Pictured: Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley makes his bed.
Second photo courtesy of mlive.com. Pictured: Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekestra shows where he stows his pillow and sleeping bag in the office he slept in.