Rep. Hansen Clarke

Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., hosts a constituent reception in his office on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Roshan Nebhrajani, Medill News Service)

Story by Lauren Schwartzberg
and Roshan Nebhrajani

Business meetings, banquets and bedtime.
The offices of some congressmen host all three.

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, all new and re-elected members of the 112th Congress will be sworn in. Members of Congress are required to routinely travel back and forth from their districts as they do business on Capitol Hill. After all, it’s the people back in those areas that sent these people to Washington.

Some members of the House plan to literally live in their offices, both to save money and to be closer to their constituents at home by spending less time in the nation’s capital.

“It’s a practical reason. I’m here to work right now, and I’m able to work 20 hours a day if I sleep right there in the office,” said Rep. Hansen Clarke, a Michigan Democrat.

For 118 days of the year, members of the House of Representatives are required to be in Washington. Two-thirds of the year, however, they are in their districts, hearing from the people who live there and doing what congressman, elected for two-year terms, have to do: run for re-election.

As a result, some members of the House have transformed their mattresses into another piece of office furniture. “I’m not trying to get comfortable here, I’m trying to get a job done and get back,” Clarke said.

Arkansas Republican Tim Griffin also plans to spend his nights on Capitol Hill while serving in the House, according to his press secretary.

Along with longer work availability, living in the office will certainly save Congressmen money on renting a second home.

For congressmen, who make a base salary of $174,000 a year, paying for two homes does not always fit the budget. The average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in Washington and the surrounding area is $1,011 dollars per month. Compare that to an average of $676 per month in Detroit or $604 dollars in Little Rock, according to, and you see the savings.

This marks the second consecutive year Congress has voted against a cost-of-living pay raise.

The less-than-ideal office cots also provide congressmen with more incentive to return to home to their families and hear the voices of the people they are representing, they said. “After voting I’m going to go back to metro Detroit, because those are the people that hired me,” Clarke said. “I need to make sure that they’re taken care of.”

Mid-sentence, Clake’s wife, Choi Palmer-Cohen, quickly interjected: “I’m going to hold him to that.”