At least 50 members of Congress sleep in their offices rather than rent out homes in D.C.

Carlos Abarca sets up beds for senators staying at the U.S. Capitol overnight for a filibuster debate.
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Congress can be a home away from home for lawmakers, and no one knows that better than the 50-plus elected officials — including top Republicans like newly anointed House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — who convert their offices into bedrooms after hours.

The reason for camping out, The New York Times explains, is "fiscal, practical, and political," allowing lawmakers to dodge Washington rent and work extra long hours (Ryan, for example, tries to maintain a 9 p.m. bedtime and rises before 6 a.m.). What's more, most of them consider "home" to be elsewhere — a 5,800-square-foot mansion in Wisconsin, if you're Ryan, for example. Why waste time and money finding a place in D.C. when a cot in the office does the trick just as well?

The practice is widespread. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has been through three mattresses in his time in office:

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First there was the blowup bed, but "I must be too fat," he said, "because I woke up one morning on the ground." After too many midnight deflations, he moved on to a Coleman cot ($44) but its springs were too weak. Lately he has settled on a more sturdy frame and mattress from Walmart ($69).He keeps sheets in a closet along with a warm blanket, which is especially important, he said, because the heat goes off from roughly midnight to 4 a.m. In another closet he has several suits and the rest of his clothing. He also keeps a small vacuum cleaner on hand for last-minute housekeeping, and frozen pizzas that he can heat in his toaster oven. [The New York Times]

Some watchdog organizations wag their fingers at the practice of office-sleeping, claiming the congressmen unfairly take advantage of taxpayer dollars for their "housing." But Chaffetz insisted it's out of necessity, not a way to dupe the system.

"It's uncomfortable and it's just lonely," he said.

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