Sunday Late Night: Funky Frosh Follies
Seeking new ways to embarrass themselves, their colleagues, and their constituents, a number of freshman Representatives decided to reveal their in-DC living arrangements to CBS News:
A CBS News survey of all freshmen members of the U.S House of Representatives has found that at least 21 of the 96 members are sleeping in their office – that’s 19 of the 87 new Republicans and 2 of the 9 new Democrats.
The reasons range from making a symbolic statement that they are not part of Washington, proving they are fiscal conservatives, and just saving money.
They sleep on air mattresses, cots, couches, and rollaway beds.
Among those profiled is GOP Tim Walberg of Michigan:
Walberg, a returning Republican freshman who slept in his office during his previous term in Congress, is among the most prepared for the bunking ritual. He has a sturdy air mattress, a double espresso maker, and a shelf of Kellogg’s cereal boxes in his closet. (Kellogg’s is headquartered in his district).
“I probably got it as good as a man cave can be,” Walberg said.
Even more hunkered down is Arizona GOP Paul Gosar, a dentist from Flagstaff:
At night, Gosar, a self-described workaholic, reads, catches up on the news, and uses the House gym, open exclusively to current and former representatives.
“It allows me to continue my work patterns, stay on the job and focused, and I get stuff done,” he said.
Besides, Gosar likes to cook. To enable his hobby, and because the Hill cafeterias close in the afternoon, Gosar has reorganized a large, cinder block supply cage across the hall from his office into a closet and kitchen. Across from a hanging row of dry cleaning, he has a crock pot, an electric griddle, a microwave, toaster, refrigerator, and file cabinet drawer full of dishes, silverware, and glasses.
The DC fire marshall, who would surely violate such an arrangement at Howard or Georgetown Universities, has no authority on Capitol Hill:
“There is nothing in the House rules that prohibits Members from sleeping in their offices,” says Bill Weidemeyer, the Superintendent of House office buildings.
He says the only challenge is trying to keep construction noise low, as such work typically occurs after hours even when Congress is not in recess. There have been the occasional noise complaints from House sleepers, for example, when the year-long roof rebuild of the Rayburn House Office Building was ongoing.
The sleepers do add a little burden to the housekeeping staff, Weidemeyer says, but no Washington D.C. laws or health code governs the practice. Like the Vatican, Congress rules its own real estate.
So if you run into your Congresscritter on a Capitol Hill office building tour, and he or she seems rushed, toothpaste and towel in hand, and a little bit, um, ripe, recall California freshlady Karen Bass’s explanation:
“I can’t see an excuse that you always want to sleep in your office because you always want to work. You can work from anywhere. So I think it’s a question of balance, and I frankly think it’s a question of hygiene,” Rep. Karen Bass, a first-term Democrat from California told us.
Sure, the teabaggers are gonna be impressed with your fiscal conservatism, saving your money while heading “home” every chance you get. But how often will your wife greet you cheerfully as you arrive “home” with that bag of dirty laundry over your shoulder? And what happens when your man-cave’s multiple heating elements short out the Capitol Hill electrical grid? Will all the live-in freshmen get cool superpowers?
And who’s gonna be the first one to find a daytime use for his inflatable air mattress?
Endlessly entertaining, if they weren’t so tragically misguided.