Following a $12 million taxpayer outlay spearheaded last year by GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a newly expanded congressional day care center is set to partially open this week, featuring a playground complete with a miniature Capitol dome and Washington Monument.
The 26,000-square foot facility, which an host up to 120 toddlers, services both members of Congress and their staff, in an effort to make working on Capitol Hill more appealing.
In early 2018, the waiting list for the House day care facility reportedly topped 175 names, and newborns at both the House and Senate day care centers typically waited between two and three years for a slot to open. The delays were so lengthy that many House employees signed up before they became pregnant.
“The Senate day care and the House day care -- they’re the golden egg," former U.S. Senate counsel Michele Jawando said in an interview with NBC News last year. "They’re the Willy Wonka golden ticket."
A second expansion to the facility is expected to open next year, and provide space for an additional 120 preschool-age children. The waiting list on the House side is expected to drop to just one year after the expansions are complete.
"If somebody is working for you and wants to continue to serve government, but says 'I don't have day care so I can't stay here, the wait list is too long, the quality is not there,' then you are disadvantaging who can actually serve and work in government at the same time," McCarthy, who pushed for the new facility while he was House Majority Leader last year, said in an interview with NPR.
"This is the only Washington Monument in D.C. that you can climb up," he added, referring to the playground in the facilty.
Parents with kids at the day care can expect to pay between $1100 and $1700 a month, according to NPR. That would seemingly represent some potential savings for those able to claim a spot: In 2015, The Washington Post reported that a single year of infant care in a day-care center in Washington, D.C. costs $22,631, or more than $1800 a month. (The costs plummet to an average of $1161 per month in Maryland.)
But a congressional official with knowledge of the day care's planning told Fox News that the rates for members and their staff are not subsidized by taxpayers. The Chief Administrative Officer of the House did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment on how the rates were determined or whether they were subsidized.
Only two lawmakers currently have children in the day care center, according to congressional sources, and lawmakers do not receive preferential access over staffers.
The sky-high cost of living in D.C. was thrust into the national spotlight in November, when 29-year-old New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez annoounced that she could not afford to rent an apartment in the city until her six-figure congressional salary kicked in.
“I have three months without a salary before I’m a member of Congress. So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real,” Ocasio-Cortez told The New York Times.