Messer moved his family to Washington shortly after he was elected to the House. In the Indiana delegation, quite a few members have relocated their families, a practice started by Pence when he was a representative.
Not long after freshman Rep. Luke Messer won his seat in 2012, he was driving in Indiana with his family — three children, ages 10 and under — and asked them about moving to Washington, D.C.
“I turned around and said, ‘Well, what do you guys think?’” the Indiana Republican said. “They said, ‘If we’re going to go, let’s just go.’ They came [to D.C.] right away.”
Messer and his wife, Jennifer, and their children, Emma, Ava and Hudson, moved to the Virginia suburbs and enjoy what Messer calls a “very normal” day-to-day life. Family dinners are at home and when votes are scheduled late in the evening, he orders from We, the Pizza on the Hill and has the family join him in the Capitol.
“I think it’s a little, maybe, counterintuitive to the public, but in a lot of ways it keeps you more grounded,” Messer said. “My life is more like the life of folks back home in that most evenings I go home and have dinner with my family. If you don’t have your family here, that’s just not true. Most nights, you are away from your family and only seeing them a few nights a month.”
A small group of members of Congress are embracing the lifestyle that Messer enjoys: picking up and moving their families to the District. It’s a practice that was once commonplace among members in both chambers, before the fear of being tied too closely to Washington took hold in the body politic. But some in D.C. hope that having loved ones and children nearby could usher in more civility, understanding and even friendship in an oft-divided institution.
While there is no hard and fast evidence of what constitutes their true homes, at least anecdotally, several members appear more at ease living in Washington.
‘I Get to See Them at Night’
A number of members in the Indiana delegation have embraced this practice; former Rep. Mike Pence, now governor of the state, is pointed to as a recent ringleader.
“Mike Pence told me, you will hug me one day when you realize having your family here will help,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., told CQ Roll Call in 2011. “It’s not about going to Washington. It’s about my family being my priority. I get to see them at night. I get to see them in the morning. When I go back home, I work the district very hard. I can pack it from morning until evening.”
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.