Feb. 8, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

For Some Members' Families, D.C. Is the Place to Be

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
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.

Riddle pointed to a 2012 book, “The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It,” that refers to the influence of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. “He wanted them to spend more time campaigning in their districts,” the book from Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson reads. “As Representative Jim Cooper remembers, ‘soon everyone belonged to the Tuesday —Thursday Club. Members became strangers, the easier for them to fight.’ The pattern persists today in even more exaggerated form.”

Location, Location, Location

Logistics can be tricky for those who want their families nearby. Buy a home? Rent? Return to the home state in the summer? (According to Trulia, the median sales price for homes in Capitol Hill is near $540,000; in Arlington, Va., it is $513,000.)

Stutzman home-schools his children, whereas Messer’s children attend public school in the D.C. area. Roberts attended a Catholic private school in Bethesda, Md., the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart.

In terms of financing, it’s a balancing act. Members have an allowance for congressional travel that’s combined with other office expenses. The House Members’ Representational Allowance hovers around $1.2 million a year — it’s determined from a base allowance and then add-ons, such as the mileage between D.C. and the furthest point in a district. Members who arrive later, like Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly, who was sworn in to represent her Illinois district in April, get fewer funds. Those with districts farther away, like Hawaii Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, are allocated more: She receives $1,315,289.

Members can divvy the MRA among office expenses and travel expenses, with limitations, such as salary caps. The average allowance in the Senate, according to the Congressional Research Service, is $3,209,103.

Most members of Congress, though, choose to keep their families in their home states. (Indiana’s former Sen. Richard G. Lugar was criticized for losing touch with his state’s needs; he lost his primary election in 2012.)

Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, who welcomed his first child early in November, said his family would stay in Cincinnati. “Honestly, it was never really a question,” he told CQ Roll Call. “Our family and friends are almost all in the area and we love it here.”

Rep. Rodney Davis — his wife and three children live in Taylorville, Ill. — says electronic means of communication are his saving grace, as well as maintaining perspective. “I will tell you that if missing an event to have some time with the family costs me an election, I’ve made the right decision,” he said in an earlier interview. “I’ll take the family.”

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