Official residences

THE question of congressional pay raises is a serious public-policy issue. It is not, however, important enough to have challenged our American ingenuity to solve, at least in part, the ongoing dilemma of how to survive in Washington on a congressional salary. Obvious to me is the need for permanent residences for our elected officials. Surprisingly, I have yet to hear any policymaker suggest that each state purchase a permanent Washington residence for its federal representatives.

Surely this would put an end to the sob stories, pleas, and tactical silence that result in predictable and regular pay raises for congressmen.

Foreign countries purchase embassies and residences for their representatives. Why can't states (or perhaps campaign supporters) acquire equivalent facilities in Washington for their elected officials?

Aside from the fact that congressmen could no longer complain that they cannot find adequate housing at reasonable cost, the following other benefits would accrue to congressmen, their states, and the District of Columbia:

Congressmen could be assessed a fixed (low) percentage of their income to repay the state and maintain the residence.

All constituents would know of a permanent address and telephone number for their representatives regardless of who is in office.

Equity in the residence could be used by the state for unspecified purposes.

The District of Columbia would get a long-needed face lift.

Congressmen could opt to live elsewhere at their own expense while maintaining an office and reception area at the permanent residence.

And most welcome would be the relief from cries of elective hardship heard with the advent of each Congress.

It is an American mystery how congressmen can raise thousands and even millions of dollars for a campaign to gain an elective office which they cannot afford and for which, apparently, no money can be garnered.

Let's find long-term solutions and end this national embarrassment.

Stuart M. Basefsky is the public documents and map librarian at Duke University, Durham, N.C.

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