Lodging 'on the house' for some members of Congress
February 18th, 2011
09:13 AM ET
3 years ago

Lodging 'on the house' for some members of Congress

Washington (CNN) - After a long day on Capitol Hill, Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh checks into what's become the cheapest hotel in Washington – his own office.

His sofa is not exactly a king size bed. "I gotta be honest. It's horrible. The couch is very uncomfortable," Walsh said. "I've rolled off to a thud," added Walsh, an active sleeper.

But crashing on his couch saves his family the expense of finding a second home in the nation's capital, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country.

One liberal government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) says the roughly three dozen congressmen (no women so far) who are sleeping in their offices have turned the House into a "frat house."

In a letter seeking an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, CREW accuses the lawmakers of milking a "fringe benefit on which members of Congress must pay taxes."

But this is nothing new. Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz showed off his office cot to CNN two years ago, saying it saved his family an estimated $1,500 dollars a month in rent he didn't spend on a D.C. apartment.

Democrats are doing it too. Freshman Michigan Rep. Hansen Clarke hopes to set an example of thriftiness to his constituents. But it comes at a cost.

"I haven't had a good night's sleep since I've been in Congress," Hansen said. "I'm here to work, not be comfortable."

Walsh, also a freshman House member, welcomes any investigation.

"If this is free housing that I have to pay a tax for, I'll pay it," Walsh said.

The Tea Party-backed Republican made headlines before he was even sworn-in when he refused to sign up for his government medical plan, a symbolic protest against the President's health care law.

Walsh denies there is a contradiction in refusing Congressional health care while accepting free housing in his taxpayer-provided office, all on a salary of $174,000 a year.

With all of the major issues facing lawmakers, Walsh is stunned anybody cares where he sleeps. "It's damn silly," he said.


Filed under: Congress
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. T'sah from Virginia

    "If this is free housing that I have to pay a tax for, I'll pay it," Walsh said.

    Yes, he says this now AFTER he was GRILLED aobut it on Lawrence O'Donnell's show the other night (checkspell on Lawrence?)!!

    February 18, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  2. John Walsh

    Is this your version of a real story?!

    February 18, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  3. CNN The Masters of Spin

    According to the mind- set of the Liberal Left, this Frugal minded Senator should get a nice hotel suite & get Gov. funding to pay for it!
    We have far too many "TAKERS" in this country....like T'sah & other liberals who read Dem "talking points" emailed to them by the DMC & set at home all day.....living on Welfare & other Government "Gimmees" that "Takers" become accustomed to.......& blog slanders & lies.....Let them try telling the TRUTH like:
    1. 20% of AMERICANS pay over 80% of all taxes
    2. WELFARE has increased 54% under Obambi
    3. This Nation CANNOT sustain the debt....we are BROKE
    4. Our Children & Grandchildren now owe over $45,000.00 each
    5. All federal & state employees receive retirement for life with them contributing little to nothing, while we in the private sector must furnish our OWN retirement....Why is this fair? Are they better?

    February 18, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  4. video guy

    Charge him rent equal to a 1 bed room apt, with gym etc.

    February 18, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. ConservaFascists

    It sounds like they're trying to avoid paying taxes.

    February 18, 2011 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  6. Dav

    I Really Feel for ya" LOL!!!!! My heart bleeds for you,so does my bank account!!!!!

    February 18, 2011 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  7. GI Joe

    Never was given free housing anywhere I worked, and NEVER made $175,000 a year and expected welfare housing in my office.

    February 18, 2011 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  8. sara

    I say, I can't sleep at my JOB! Just imagine if all the working poor could Sleep at Work! There Would Not be a Poor Worker in America!!! I don't give a "hoot" about their long commutes (high speed rails now!), or the Price of housing, with a salary of $175.000.00 per year! MOST WORKING AMERICANS COMMUTE AT LEAST 2 OR MORE HOURS A DAY BEARING THE HIGH COST OF FUEL, (ON CONGESTED, DANGEROUS AND CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE) JUST TO KEEP A ROOF OVER THEIR FAMILY HEADS. WHERE WE STAY, WE PAY!!!! TO ALL THE "FAKE- DO-GOODERS", STOP USING YOUR OFFICE FOR SHELTER OR PAY MARKET VALUE RENT FOR HOUSING. WE ARE ALL AMERICANS, AND WE SUFFER TOGETHER! IF IT'S TOO EXPENSIVE FOR YOU TO RENT A PLACE IN ORDER TO WORK....THEN DON'T TAKE THIS JOB> I AM SO SICK OF THESE HYPOCRITES....I'M LOOKING FOR MY MARCHING SHOES!

    February 18, 2011 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  9. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    How unbelievably petty! Demanding that people pay a tax for sleeping on a couch in their own offices? Idiotic!

    February 18, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  10. Inmyopinion

    Good for them. Thank you. Take it one step further by lowering your paychecks from $174,000 a year. Too bad the government employees from Wisconsin think they are more privileged than our members of Congress and expect to keep getting all those goodies for almost free. Why should government employees be privileged over those of us in the private sector who have to pay for our benefits and put in long hours and weekends to get a better pay that comes up to the pay government employees are getting for 40 hours, no weekends, no nights.

    February 18, 2011 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  11. Jilli

    Pay the tax. Saw an interview with Chaffetz the other day – he had no intention of paying taxes – he's scamming the system. Typical republican.

    February 18, 2011 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  12. EBC

    What a load of CRAP!!! These GREEDY politicians want the American Taxpayers to PAY for them sleeping in their offices while they pocket the BIG LIVING EXPENSE STIPED for their own greedy selves!!!! Senator Walsh is nothing but a THEIF and a CROOK!!! The IRS needs to TAKE ACTION!!!!

    February 18, 2011 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  13. KatR

    Seems to me that by not at least checking into the hotel for the few days during the year you're reqd to be in DC you are not contributing to the private sector economy of DC, as well as the nation. Instead...you're using your govt office for non-govt business. Isn't that a misuse of taxpayer dollars? Isn't it hypocritical to supposedly support the free market rather than govt and not use the free market but rather a govt office to sleep in?

    February 18, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. NVa Native

    So do these politicians declare their "free" housing and pay taxes on it?
    The rest of us would have to, why do these politicians feel they have a right to use "our building the US Capitol" as a flop house. I wish I made $175K a year and all that retirement, expense accounts, private gym, and support staff (paid by tax payer) on top of free housing.
    Nothing more than greedy opportunists taking advantage of the tax paying public.
    Reminds me of the C Street House of Decadence" where the conservative religious "church" let politicians stay in their Georgetown Mansion for pretty much free.

    February 18, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  15. marty

    Turning an office into a bedroom is pretty disgusting regardless of who does or who did.

    February 18, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  16. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    How do these people not plan for a place to stay. Once they get elected, they should have know to get some hotel or apartment there in DC on a temporary basis. Isn't this a thought that is going through their heads? I mean if you are from Delaware or Maryland or some parts of Virginia going home each night is an option, but if you're not from there, plan ahead. I guess this is one problem with members of Congress - inability to think ahead!

    February 18, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    Might be a real stinky situation . . . night after night after night.

    February 18, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  18. Bob in PA

    Who cares, another non story.
    If these guys save their own money, they won't be so anxious to pass themselves pay raises..
    If anything, maybe a small fee for extra useage of water and electricity. But then again, this is DC, they probably leave the lights on all night long anyway.

    February 18, 2011 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  19. Sane in South Dakota

    I am appalled at what these representatives are doing. Wish I made $174,000 a year. I am tired of the games. Give up part of your salary and then we will talk about letting you stay in your office.

    February 18, 2011 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  20. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    They should camp out in the Walmart parking lot if they want free housing.

    February 18, 2011 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  21. duke

    According to them,
    The(politicians), Only the people should live within their means and sacrifice,
    Just like we the people are the only ones who should live by the laws that they,
    The (politicians)craft,
    I wonder how the (Non)jobs creating,fiscal tea-drinking,repube_l!ckums feel about this??
    So we lock up a lady for signing her kids into the wrong school district for a better education,
    But politicians can abuse their jobs to save their family money??
    Two sets of rules,and it has to stop!!

    February 18, 2011 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  22. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Where is C street when you need them?

    February 18, 2011 10:51 am at 10:51 am |