Capitol Hill’s sexual harassment scandal reignites debate about thrifty lawmakers sleeping in their office

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They could be members of Congress, however they didn’t sleep at a Vacation Inn Categorical final night time. They most likely slept of their workplaces on Capitol Hill.

When Congress meets, dozens of lawmakers catch their z’s within the Spartan lodging of the Rayburn Ramada, the Longworth Motel 6 or the Cannon Airbnb.

It’s a nightly ritual within the halls of Congress. Lawmakers retreat to their workplaces within the Rayburn, Longworth and Cannon Home Workplace buildings, inflate an air mattress or wheel out a rollaway cot,  then flip in for the night time.

Many shave and brush their tooth within the private sinks hooked up to every workplace suite. However members should lope right down to the Home health club within the basement of the Rayburn Constructing to bathe.

Freshmen lawmakers typically make a giant manufacturing to native media, touting their intentions to sleep of their workplaces. They make some extent of telling constituents they’ll eschew renting or shopping for in D.C., lest they’re perceived as “going Washington” and having forgotten in regards to the little guys again house.

In order that they stage elaborate picture ops with their sleeping baggage and Murphy Beds to reveal how they intend to tough it within the huge metropolis.

They got here to Washington — however they don’t actually need to be right here.

It’s a great way to reveal fiscal prudence to the voters and make a mark once you’re new to the district. Lawmakers can burnish their picture and rating some free press once they don’t have many legislative bona fides on their resume but.

The workplace sleeping apply has been in query for years. “Good authorities” teams query whether or not federal workplace lodging resemble a perquisite for lawmakers. They don’t should lease an condominium or buy a home once they work in Washington. As an alternative, they simply camp on the ground – on the federal dime.

In different phrases, taxpayer sponsored lodging, which quantities to a skimping on taxes. By no means thoughts that federal legislation and Home guidelines bar lawmakers from utilizing “official assets” for private functions.

So, what you get is a weird model of “public housing,” not removed from the marble corridors, statues and historic paintings which adorns the Capitol complicated.

Some lawmakers view the apply as unseemly and beneath the dignity of Congress. That’s why late Home Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, barred workplace sleeping. Former Home Audio system Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and John Boehner, R-Ohio, by no means slept of their workplaces. However Home Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., definitely does and has bragged about it.

However now there’s an even bigger query. Varied sexual harassment scandals now embroil Capitol Hill. A number of feminine aides who work for members of each events have expressed concern to Fox about their bosses changing their congressional quarters right into a bed room at night time — particularly once they’re nonetheless toiling on the Capitol late or early within the morning.

That mentioned, not one of the aides indicated there was ever an incident. However notion reigns in politics. And by far, the variety of lawmakers who reside of their workplaces skews predominantly male.

“It’s simply awkward,” mentioned one feminine aide who requested to not be recognized. “It may be uncomfortable.”

Ryan defended the couch-surfing when requested if it ought to proceed amid the sexual harassment local weather sweeping Capitol Hill.

“It’s extra of a comfort factor,” mentioned Ryan, arguing he didn’t see how the apply was “related” to points involving office sexual harassment.

“We sleep in our workplaces as a result of we work till midnight and rise up early,” he mentioned. “We don’t see our staffs. I by no means see my workers after I return.”

To be clear, no one has ever instructed inappropriate conduct involving the speaker.

However many aides say they do see their lawmaker bosses loping across the workplace at night time once they’re working late or trekking backwards and forwards to the Home health club early within the morning in sweats and bathe sandals.

 

Ryan is correct in regards to the comfort issue. Members work unusual hours when in Washington. There are late-night votes and committee hearings. Fundraisers. Conferences at 9 and 10 p.m. with colleagues. However loads of lawmakers additionally reside just some blocks away from the Capitol in efficiencies or studio flats.

Others are joyful to place a number of miles between them and Capitol Hill, renting or shopping for throughout the river in Arlington or Alexandria, Va. Some even reside in Maryland.

Value is a matter, too. Rank and file Home and Senate members absorb $174,000 a 12 months. That’s good cash. But it surely’s not rather a lot when a lawmaker has to take care of residences again house and in high-cost Washington. Tiny flats consuming 700 sq. toes might run as a lot as $2,000-plus a month.

It’s little shock that some lawmakers room collectively in group homes near the Capitol. It’s costly when many members of Congress have households again house, try to be thrifty as they put youngsters via college or caring for ageing dad and mom.

A price of residing adjustment? Lawmakers are sometimes detest to vote themselves a pay enhance for worry of voter backlash. Some assert that lawmakers deserve price of residing advantages — particularly if the nation needs to draw good folks to signify them in Washington.

In addition they make the case that congressional pay needs to be aggressive. In any other case, Washington will solely appeal to lawmakers who’re independently rich and may afford to purchase or lease a spot off Capitol Hill.

Members of Congress are extraordinarily involved about sustaining a stable status. The frugality of sleeping of their workplaces definitely helps underscore the concept lawmakers don’t bask within the glory of Washington and “go native.”

By the identical token, allegations of sexual harassment involving a number of members — spurring the resignations of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Trent Franks, R-Ariz. — might alter the calculus.

Some lawmakers might discreetly ditch the workplace futons and couches for a small condominium not removed from the Capitol. They may then keep away from the look that there might be an issue with them crashing of their workplaces.

It’s unclear precisely what number of Home and Senate members arrange residences of their workplaces when Congress is in session. However when dusk is available in Washington, the Capitol doubles as “The Nation’s Innkeeper.”

 

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