Supporters of the house assert that despite the unfavorable publicity, C Street remains a refuge for lawmakers of both parties and numerous Christian denominations. House rules include no smoking or drinking, and male-only residents fraternize in common areas bedecked with crosses and a stained-glass window. They share communal bathrooms in a setting similar to a college dormitory and are expected to live a Christian life.
In an unusually frank interview with the Tulsa World newspaper on July 13, former Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.) acknowledged participating in a confrontation with Ensign about his affair. Largent explained that members of the house have a license for such confrontations if theres something going on that shouldnt be going in someones life.
Our feeling is that if anybody does that and does it willfully that we are asking them not to live at C Street anymore, Largent told the Tulsa World.
C Street is affiliated with the International Foundation, which runs the widely attended annual National Prayer Breakfast on Capitol Hill, in addition to weekly nondenominational Bible study groups exclusively attended by House and Senate Members.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) defended the house against allegations that it operates under a veil of secrecy. She said the weekly Bible study thats affiliated with C Street remains one of the best hours of the week.
We eat, we say a prayer and then somebody picks a Scripture to read, she said, adding that the group of 25 to 40 or so lawmakers in attendance often features speakers who talk about their personal journey.
Former Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), who sought support from C Street after her 9-year-old daughter died from cancer in 1999, noted that Coburn reached out to her and introduced her to the prayer group of six to 10 female Members who still meet every Wednesday morning for breakfast at the house.
I was going through a time of great personal need, and I was embraced in a way thats almost inexplicable, she said.
The house also serves as a venue for business Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), for example, hosts a quarterly lunch with African ambassadors at C Street to discuss foreign policy issues.
Its a great place, Inhofe said.
Inhofe said he is undeterred by the negative news surrounding the affairs of the three Members with ties to the house and will continue hosting his lunches at C Street.
But as some Members stand by each other and the house amid growing questions, still others have lingering worries.
Asked one occasional guest of C Street: The concept is fantastic, but if it has no credibility, whats the reason for someone to live there?
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.