Despite their salary of $174,000, many Congress representatives are sleeping in makeshift office homes because they claim they can’t afford D.C. rent.

New York Congressman Dan Donovan is just one of the 50 members of Congress who has openly admitted to sleeping in their office, citing a lack of funds for his decision to open up a cot in the corner of his office each night to get a bit of shut-eye.

According to the New York Post, the stagnant salaries on Capitol Hill has meant that those representatives looking to keep up rent in two separate locations and look after their families as well are sometimes being forced to stay out of the D.C. property market and resort to cots, futons, and even their couch as they stay on the job overnight.

“Washington is too expensive,” Rep. Donovan (R-SI) told the Post.

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Dan Donovan. Image: Public Domain/White House.

Dan Donovan. Image: Public Domain/White House.

“If we go to the point where you have to rent or have to buy [in DC], then only millionaires would be members of Congress. I don’t think that was the intent of our Founding Fathers.”

With thanks to the Congressional gym, where representatives can go for a morning workout before using the showers to scrub up after spending the night in their office, for $300 a year, those who believe they can’t afford to rent in D.C. are able to keep living from their workplace, avoiding having to split their $174,000 salary on a place in their own district and on a place in Washington where a one-bedroom pad can start at $2,000 a month.

Other Irish-American politicians are among those following Donovan’s lead including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also sleeps in his office. Image: Public Domain/White House.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also sleeps in his office. Image: Public Domain/White House.

Other representatives are calling for the practice to end, however, claiming it’s unhygienic and unethical. In fact, legislation has been put forward for later this month which would put an end to the makeshift office sleeping quarters.

“Look, it’s unhealthy. It’s nasty. I wouldn’t want to be entertained in somebody’s bedroom,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) who is one of the main voices behind the bill.

“Sleeping in your office is not proper. You get free cable. Free electricity. Free janitorial. Free security. No rent. It’s a heck of a deal. It probably comes out to $25,000 to $30,000 [a year].”

It has been almost a decade since Congress gave their representatives a pay raise and some feel that in the absence of a housing allowance, staying in their office is the only way to allow them to afford their profession. While 50 members have admitted to sleeping in their offices, the Post estimates that the figure could, in fact, be as high as 100, a fifth of the governing body.

“Washington is too expensive,” said Rep. Dan Donovan (R-SI), who credits the cot that he sleeps on in a tiny alcove in his office as the reason he is able to serve in Congress while still paying his New York City housing costs.

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While some such as Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan), who doesn’t sleep in his office, stress that without a fix, only wealthier people will be able to serve in Congress, others such as Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), believe that looking for a pay rise is a no-go.

“I think that too often the indirect costs of serving in Congress, in particular, housing in the DC area, can prevent many good candidates, especially women, people of color and working-class individuals, from running,” said Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.).

One suggestion put forward by US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) is that former dormitories once used for the teenaged congressional pages could be turned into accommodation or sleeping areas for representatives.

Do Representatives of Congress deserve a raise so they can afford accommodation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, below. 

H/T: The New York Post