"As the federal government manages sequestration, Congress should finally do what it has avoided doing for so long - identify fiscal priorities - and there is no better place to start than within Congress's own halls," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., wrote.The expenses go from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous. A million bucks to operate the Senate barbershop. Another million to pay staffers at the Capitol Hill gift shops. And don't forget the health club operated by congress, the one made famous by Rep. "Tickle Me" Massa, who told of an incident with the then White House Chief of Staff:
"I'm sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me because I wasn't going to vote for the president's budget," said Massa.Back in 2011 Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, said "The gyms and the hair care and all the parking facilities that they have ... they're really living a different life than the average American."
And the parking is not the members of Congress get free for their cars, in many cases the cars are also free. They get up to a thousand dollars per month, per person, to pay for vehicle leases for House members. Senate staffers can also pocket nearly $3,000 per year for Metro costs.
How about the Congressional Cafeterias, are there costs subsidized the the voters?
Coburn said in his letter that Congress can find plenty of ways to cut operating costs.
Starting with the printing of bills and reports alone, he said, Congress could save millions. The annual budget for the Government Printing Office in 2012 was $126 million, much of it going toward the cost of printing thousands of bills that never become law and are available online.
Coburn singled out both the Senate barbershop and hair salon, as well as the two Capitol Hill gift shops. Though both earn revenue to defray their operational costs, on balance they are losing money. The barbershop reportedly has lost more than $340,000 a year since 1997, a loss Coburn described as "beauty bailouts for senators charged to taxpayers."
On top of this are various leadership programs sponsored by Congress which cost millions and training programs for staffers that have little to do with the business of legislating, programs from healthy eating to social situations to credit scores.
These cuts may not amount to much when you consider the total $17 trillion federal debt but its a start. Coburn is absolutely correct as we are forced to cut programs to bring down the debt Congress should share in the pain.