Counting Votes Or Counting Sheep? Dozens of members of Congress sleep overnight in their Capitol Hill offices. NPR's Scott Simon has some suggestions for how to reform the system at least one critic has called "almost nasty."
NPR logo

Counting Votes Or Counting Sheep?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/598397562/598503624" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Counting Votes Or Counting Sheep?

Counting Votes Or Counting Sheep?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/598397562/598503624" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Shh. A representative in Congress may be sleeping in their office. An estimated 40 to 50 representatives, maybe more, reportedly bed down in their offices each night. They're men and women, but mostly men, Republicans and Democrats, but mostly Republicans, who have been called the In-Office Caucus. Many who use the halls of Congress for a crash pad reportedly pad down to the House gym in the morning to shower. They have left over takeout turning crusty in their office fridge, Pop-Tarts in a file cabinet and sheets and pillows tucked into a supply closet, along with whatever pinstripe they might need to appear on Fox News. Most congresspeople who make camp in their offices say it's to save money. Representatives are paid $174,000 a year. Keeping a second residence in Washington, D.C., can be costly. But office-dwellers also like to boast that though they vote in Washington, they have not gone Washington. As Paul Ryan of Janesville, Wis., who sleeps in his office, told CNN when he was elected speaker of the House in 2015, I commute back and forth every week, I just work here. I don't live here.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have sent a letter to the House Ethics Committee to complain 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. Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi adds, some people would say it's almost nasty. Another Democrat, Representative Jackie Speier of California, calls Congress camping just unseemly and suggests members of Congress should be able to deduct a portion of their Washington living expenses.

I'd like to float another proposal. Why not convert some airy, abandoned loft near the U.S. Capitol into a low-priced Congress hostel, a place with bunk beds, Wi-Fi, lockers, cheap beer and a game room? When members of the Continental Congress stayed in a Philadelphia boarding house, they wrote a constitution that's lasted 229 years. Maybe today's U.S. Congress can stay in a hostel and pass a budget that will last a year. Lobbyists can make donations to tuck the congresspeople into their bunk beds at night. The representatives can lull themselves to sleep watching replays of themselves on C-SPAN.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SWEET DREAMS (ARE MADE OF THIS)")

EURYTHMICS: (Singing) Sweet dreams are made of this. Who am I to disagree? I travel the world and the seven seas. Everybody's looking for....

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.