The House Is Now a Home for Cost-Conscious Congressman James Jeffords
Sleeping in the office is no one’s idea of a good time, but Vermont’s Congressman James M. Jeffords has a full agenda of domestic affairs: two teenagers living with a housekeeper in Rutland; alimony to pay their mother; heating bills doubling to $200 a month. Then last month his D.C. apartment building went condo, and his $285-a-month one-bedroom flat was sold at a price he didn’t like, $73,000. An apartment hunt in the Capitol Hill area turned up only “terrible places for $500 or $600,” he says. And so James Jeffords, 46, decided to put his home where his heart was, in the House.
Be it ever so humble, it did already have a refrigerator, a hot plate and a bathroom. With his rocking chair, bureau and end tables installed, it seems, well, quite cozy—and he can shower in the House gym just across the street. “The only problem will be laundry,” he says.
Jeffords stresses that his move into the Longworth House Office Building is not a plea for a higher salary. Indeed, the Republican has consistently voted against raising congressmen’s salary above the current $60,662. “I’m not crying poor,” he says. “I just didn’t want to move off the Hill and add commuting time. Besides, I don’t own a car.”
In fact, the cramped quarters may actually bring back fond memories for the four-term representative, who spent his first three months as a freshman in 1975 living in a mobile home because of campaign debts. “I don’t know what the fuss is all about,” says Jeffords, professing to wish that someone turn off the limelight so he can fold up his Castro Convertible and get back to work. “I’d like to be remembered for my legislative achievements—not for where I slept.”