AP NEWS
Related topics

End the congressional pajama parties: editorial

April 1, 2018 GMT

End the congressional pajama parties: editorial

Members of Congress are well-paid, with a base pay of $174,000 a year. That’s more than three times Ohioans’ median annual household income of $50,674.

And members of Congress enjoy benefits few of their constituents get, from generous health care and retirement packages to their own tennis court and air travel perks.

What members of Congress aren’t entitled to is free Washington housing at taxpayers’ expense. So, if some members choose to sleep in their offices to duck Washington rents, they’re freeloading off the Treasury – and fairness demands that they pay the government rent, or, at a minimum, taxes on the perk.

U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Warrensville Heights Democrats, and some other Congressional Black Caucus members have asked the House Ethics Committee to review “the legality and propriety” of House members using their congressional offices as “overnight lodging facilities.”

Their Dec. 13, 2017 letter says that, “at a bare minimum, these Members [of Congress] should be taxed at the fair market value of a Capitol Hill apartment.”

As of mid-March, the ethics committee had yet to respond.

“When you are cutting benefits to the poor, the mentally ill, to education, to housing vouchers, to veterans housing, why should you sleep for free in a public building?” Fudge asked, when questioned by cleveland.com reporter Sabrina Eaton.

Answer: Unless someone is a brazen hypocrite, he or she shouldn’t.

Fudge added that, if the practice is allowed to continue, “they either need to do something about our salaries, or do something about a housing allowance if they think they can’t live on this salary.”

No.

More raises and allowances for our already well-compensated lawmakers are out of the question.

Instead, members of Congress who want to live in their congressional offices must either pay fair-market rent for their government-supplied lodging, or a fee to compensate the Treasury for the extra use of water, electricity and cleaning services along with federal taxes on the value of the perk. Anything less is an insult to taxpayers.

About our editorials: Editorials express the view of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer -- the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization. 

Have something to say about this topic?

* Use the comments to share your thoughts. Then, stay informed when readers reply to your comments by using the “Follow” option at the top of the comments, and look for updates via the small blue bell in the lower right as you look at more stories on cleveland.com.

* Send a letter to the editor, which will be considered for print publication.

* Email general questions about our editorial board or comments on this editorial to Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, at esullivan@cleveland.com.