Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson’s newest proposal to give legislators cheap housing is a taxpayer nightmare that would create a Congressional “animal house.”

Thompson introduced H.R. 5845, the No Couches for Congress Act, to ban House members from sleeping in their offices and introduce monthly housing deductions. This move comes after an exposé in the New York Post documented an array of House members who opt to sleep on cots in their office rather than incurring additional housing expenses in Washington, D.C. The proposed legislation would amend the tax code to allow House members to deduct D.C. living expenses up to $3,000 per month, a practice that is currently prohibited under section 152(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

House members make $174,000 per year, except for the Speaker of the House and Majority and Minority leaders. With the average cost of a D.C. studio apartment falling around $1,602 per month, representatives could pay less than 10% of their annual income on housing. That’s 21% lower than the average household spends on housing annually.

Twenty three Democrats co-sponsor Thompson’s bill, while fellow House members from both parties scoff at the idea. Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) told the New York Post that glorified Congressional dorms “might be a breeding house for something bad.” Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.), who regularly sleeps in his office to save money, says “I’m here to work, not relive my college days in a taxpayer-funded dorm.” Donovan pointed out that with our national debt sitting around $20 trillion, this is no time to tax the public so that House members can live comfortably for free. What Thompson and his co-sponsors fail to realize is that many of the House members highlighted in the Post piece were not discouraged about bunking in their offices. Donovan thinks it’s a small concession to make to be able to save for his daughter’s college tuition. Military veteran Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) says sleeping in his office makes him more efficient.

While D.C. laments a troubling homeless population, hovering around 6,904 people, Thompson wants his housing plan to take root in a currently vacant residence hall near Capitol Hill. Some House members have pointed out that there are other groups who find living expenses far more prohibitive than representatives do. One Congresswoman suggested turning the building into intern housing.

Within 180 days, Thompson would like to see a report on the feasibility of converting unused buildings into affordable Congressional housing. In the meantime, he believes that those who continue to sleep in their office should be hit with a tax burden and report their living arrangements to the IRS as an accrued benefit.

No Couches for Congress Act is Co-sponsored by:

  1. Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11)
  2. A. Donald McEachin (VA-04)
  3. James E. Clyburn ( SC—06)
  4. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)
  5. Joyce Beatty (OH-03)
  6. Val Butler Demings (FL-10)
  7. Robin L. Kelly (IL-02)
  8. Alma S. Adams (NC-12)
  9. Karen Bass (CA-37)
  10. Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14)
  11. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20)
  12. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL)
  13. Eddie Bernice (TX-30)
  14. Henry C. Johnson (GA-04)
  15. Sanford D. Bishop Jr (GA-02)
  16. Dwight Evans (PA-02)
  17. Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07)
  18. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)
  19. Donald M. Payne Jr (NJ-10)
  20. Barbara Lee (CA-13)
  21. Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24)
  22. Al Green (TX-09)
  23. Lacy Clay (MO-01)