"The place is not a frat house"

Seen from a different perspective, lawmakers who sleep in their offices are essentially squatting in a fancy government building. They pay no rent and no electrical bill; they have access to free cable and internet, showers and restrooms in the House gym, as well as a cleaning service—all at the taxpayers’ expense. With apartments on Capitol Hill frequently renting for upwards of $2,000 a month, Thompson argued that members of the so-called “couch caucus” were fleecing the government of as much as $25,000 or $30,000 a year.

He pointed out that members of Congress already have to pay taxes on the reserved parking spaces they use in the Capitol garages. “Well, if I’m parking my body in an office, at a minimum we should put some value on what that’s worth,” Thompson told me in a phone interview. “And that member should receive the same kind of tax notice or benefit notice that we receive from parking. But they don’t.”