It’s 2:45 a.m. on a workday when Congress is scheduled to be in session. Do you know where your representative is sleeping?
If your representative is like a growing number of House members, he or she isn’t tucked into bed in an apartment or house they rent in Washington while away from their home district. Instead, the chances are increasing that your congressman is sleeping on a couch or a cot—in the office.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) said he doesn’t think most constituents are aware that a large percentage—more than 50 members—now sleep in their offices in order to save money.
Hastings says he recently told three people about the arrangements “and I got a gasp from each one of them.” The lawmakers sleeping in their offices, he says, range from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to the least senior members of both parties.
Washington is one of the most expensive rental markets in the nation and monthly rates for a small apartment can exceed $2,000, Hastings said. Although lawmakers receive a $174,000 annual salary, members with families back home still find it hard to maintain two separate households, he says.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), a member of the Republican leadership, says the issue is most problematic for single women serving in Congress. Staying alone in a House office building at night may not be the best solution, he said.
“Safety is a big issue,” Sessions said.
Still, Republican leaders are likely to again block any effort in December to provide lawmakers with a cost-of-living increase to help with housing costs. A year-end bill to cover the budget of the legislative branch is expected to maintain current salaries, which have been frozen since 2009.
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