With the gun control debate raging on, the battle for Congress officially underway, and a trade war potentially on the horizon, a group of House Democrats have redirected their focus to the real issue at hand: Congress members sleeping in their offices.
No, you didn’t accidentally click on an article from The Onion. According to a new report by Politico, more than two dozen members (30 to be exact) of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) submitted a letter to the House Ethics Committee asking it to look into the “legality and propriety of a significant number of members choosing to use their Congressional offices as overnight lodging facilities.”
Among the signatories is CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond, as well as Reps. Maxine Waters, John Lewis, Frederica Wilson and Elijah Cummings.
The practice, more common among male and Republican members of Congress, is “inappropriate, disrespectful, and unsanitary,” and “reflects negatively upon the decorum and credibility of the House as a body and as an institution,” they argue.
The letter goes on to say that “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.”
For this reason, the signatories believe that, if the Ethics Committee determines the practice is permitted, those who stay overnight in their offices “should be taxed at the fair market value of a Capitol Hill apartment.”
Members who sleep in their office, including Speaker Paul Ryan, have defended the practice, saying it’s not only economical (they have residences in their home states they pay for, as well as families to support, after all), but allows them to work longer and harder hours.
Not to mention, it’s not exactly a glamorous set up; a tiny cot and a few blankets are hardly 5-star accommodations.
Regardless of whether you think the practice should be permitted or not, it seems like a minor controversy compared to everything else that's going on in our country today.
Granted, the letter was submitted back in mid-December. However, since the signatories asked for an answer by January 5th and received none, they are now considering sending a follow-up letter, the third (yes, third) such letter in the past two years.
According to the Politico report, if these Democrats don’t get an answer soon and end up “retak[ing] the House in November, they’re almost certain to raise the issue again.” Priorities.