In a jab at Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, new legislation was introduced on Thursday that if passed would ban members of the House from sleeping in their Congressional offices.
The bill is sponsored by Democratic Rep Bennie Thomas. The Mississippi representative’s bill would also give lawmakers tax deductions for their housing and living costs when they are in Washington, D.C. working during the legislative session.
Although it may seem odd to those outside of Washington political circles, bunking up in offices is not an uncommon practice on Capitol Hill. Legislative sessions that often go into the wee hours of the morning combined with early meetings lead many lawmakers to sleep in their offices rather than make the long commute home, especially if the Washington Metro line is closed.
Ryan, as well as his Republican colleague Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are both known for their propensity to sleep in their offices, often going so far as to brag about the practice. Ryan has gone on record saying that he has a cot in his office in the Longworth House Office Building and that he gets more work done if he just stays the night.
Last March, members of the Congressional Black Caucus approached the House Ethics Committee to investigate the practice, claiming that using the congressional office as a place of lodging is an abuse of taxpayer money. Florida’s Democratic Ted Deutch said not only are members receiving free housing, but they are also taking advantage of free cleaning services and utilities. The use of government resources for personal gain is in direct violation of long-standing congressional ethics rules.
In addition to the financial concerns, many supporters of the bill point to the growing #MeToo movement, saying that members sleeping in their offices can fuel the harassment culture so prevalent in politics these days.