In November's midterm elections, voters sent a few new Democrats to Washington, and a lot of new Republicans. Now, some of these freshmen members from both sides of the aisle have joined a new party: the slumber party.
Since congressmen don't get a housing allowance, they are on their own when it comes to finding a place to stay in DC. And since rent is expensive, roughly one in five new members have decided their best bet is just to camp out in Congress.
"I can't afford two homes," explains Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who has slept on a cot in his closet for a few years. "I've got a mortgage. I refuse to go into debt. I've just gotta be fiscally responsible."
Chaffetz picked up his quarter-inch thick Coleman cot at a Utah supermarket on his way to Washington. He thinks if Americans saw him laying a few feet away from his desk, next to a shelf filled with beef jerkey and Swedish Fish, their opinion of lawmakers would change.
"A lot of people think of Congress, you are getting limos and all that, but there are some of us on a budget. And I get paid a handsome salary, but I have to save some money just like everyone else." Chaffetz said one of the biggest criticisms he has ever received for sleeping in his office came from a hunter, who said he should have a nicer cot.
Freshman Arizona Republican Paul Gosar keeps an air mattress folded up just a few feet away from where he holds meetings with fellow congressmen and constituents in the lightly decorated office he calls his, "Congressional Man Cave."
He says the inflatable bed on the floor suits him just fine as he points to the ground and declares, "It's actually not bad. I'm originally from western Wyoming, so I did lots of camping, and I don't see any rocks."
Across the hall from his fifth-floor office in the Cannon House Office Building, Gosar has turned a storage cage typically reserved for files and folders into a makeshift Congressional kitchen, complete with a crock pot.
"This is how I did it through school, too," Gosar says, recalling his days as a busy student trying to keep his meals easy and cheap during Dental School. He says the view from the windowless storage room doesn't come close to the mountains he sees above the sink at his Arizona home, but he looks forward to possibly cooking for his colleagues someday soon. "I've never seen anything wrong come out of a cup of coffee or a meal," he says. "I think that's the way politics originally started and I think that is what we should get back to."
Another congressman Gosar and Chaffetz will likely debate on issues like the debt ceiling also sleeps on the floor.Freshman Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., says his main reason for keeping the daily commute to less than five feet is because that way, he has more time to serve his district in Detroit. "I represent Detroit and I need to work here as much as I can," Clarke explains as he points to his desk. "Practically speaking, I can work right here 20 hours a day and still get four hours of sleep, because I sleep right here."
Reps. Chaffetz, Gosar, and Clarke were all gracious to show us their private residences at one of Washington's most exclusive addresses. But Chaffetz says there is at least one member who would never want to talk to us. In fact, he doesn't even want his staff to know he sleeps in his office. The reason, Chaffetz explains, is that this mystery member wants his staff to think he is just the hardest working guy in DC. Always the first to arrive, always the last to leave.
Peter Doocy is currently a Washington D.C.-based correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2009 as a general assignment reporter based in the New York bureau.