Last week the NY Times ran a piece on the House’s “Couch Caucus,” the 4 dozen or so members of Congress who choose to bunk in their Hill offices rather than pay DC rents. It’s not a new meme: Politico and ABC reported similar stories in 2008, the Wall Street Journal talked about it last year, and I seem to recall a similar article in the New Yorker over the summer.)
The practice rankles, perhaps because as a DC transplant, I can’t eschew the hefty rents. (I might be able to deal with a sleeping bag under the desk, but it’d be rough for the baby.) I discern a an anti-DC tone to the practice, which, to which I’m extra-sensitive as only a new Washingtonian could be. I also have a bit of pity for these public servants who are missing out on a nice town.
The public policy concern, mentioned in passing by the Times, but central to the New Yorker piece, is that in living such Spartan lives and fleeing the District at every opportunity Congressmen lose the opportunity to build relationships with one another. (“Skeptics…complain that the practice…promotes a fierce anti-Washington sentiment that hurts bipartisanship and that, frankly, it just seems weird.”)
Combined, those sentiments compelled me to tweak the Couch Caucus, and my hometown Congressman Mike Quigley, on Twitter. @RepMikeQuigley, on whose behalf I knocked on doors in the winter of 2009, kindly responded. A Couch Caucuser, Quigley’s had a bipartisan bent to his government transparency work since *before* he was in the minority. He co-founded the Transparency Caucus with Darrell Issa, a point he reminded us of last week on WBEZ.
So maybe you don’t have to pay $2,500 for a 600-square-foot basement apartment to be able to work across the aisle.