Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi introduced a bill Thursday to prohibit House members from sleeping overnight in their congressional offices as a way to save money.
The bill also would grant members a tax deduction for living expenses so they can better afford to make second homes in Washington during the work week while they’re away from their home districts.
Roughly 40 to 100 lawmakers currently sleep in their offices, Politico previously reported, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who pulls out a cot each night in his Longworth House Office Building office. The House GOP’s second-in-line man, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, also sleeps in his office.
Ryan’s office indicated Thursday the speaker would not support the bill over the provision granting a tax deduction to members for living expenses.
“The speaker does not believe members need additional taxpayer money for housing,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in an email.
Thirty members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter on Dec. 13 to the House Ethics Committee raising questions over sanitation and the special privileges inherent in staying overnight in congressional offices.
It may even violate House rules and federal law, they argued.
“Members who sleep overnight in their offices receive free lodging, free cable, free security, free cleaning services, and utilize other utilities free of charge in direct violation of the ethics rules which prohibit official resources from being used for personal purposes,” the letter states.
Members who sleep in their offices cite soaring rent costs in Washington and stagnant congressional salaries as reasons for spurning the D.C. housing market.
“Washington is too expensive,” GOP Rep. Dan Donovan of New York told the New York Post.
“If we go to the point where you have to rent or have to buy [in D.C.], then only millionaires would be members of Congress,” he said.
The bill introduced Thursday is unlikely to gain any traction as long as Ryan remains speaker. He has been sleeping in his office when he’s in Washington for two decades and is retiring at the end of his current term.
“I get up very early in the morning. I work out. I work until about 11:30 at night. I go to bed. And I do the same thing the next day,” Ryan told Roll Call in 2015 when asked whether he would finally rent a place in D.C. upon becoming speaker.
“It actually makes me more efficient,” Ryan said. “I can actually get more work done by sleeping on a cot in my office.”
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