One the longstanding perks available to members of the United States Congress is access to a reserved parking lot at Reagan National Airport, conveniently located a hundred feet from the departures lounge. The above-average fleet of cars here all bear two sets of license plates, one tied to the vehicle registration in members’ home districts and another special plate issued by Congress that get them out of parking tickets in D.C.
Members of Congress make frequent use of their special parking privileges as they shuttle back and forth between their districts and the capital throughout the year. This convenient access was actually one of the central arguments after 9/11 in favor of keeping the airport open, when some questioned the security threat presented by constant flights just 3 miles from the White House.
Aside from government officials, others have been known to take advantage of the Congressional lot over the years. The Washington Post complained in 1979 that the special parking “is being abused by scores of family members, aides and ex-congressmen who have refused to give up their VIP status.”
The 89-spot Congressional lot once had official signage, but that has been removed by optics-conscious politicians in recent years. Now the area keeps away interlopers with a vague “Restricted Parking - Authorized Users Only” sign.
The Congressional lot is about to close for four years to provide space for a construction staging area, during which time lawmakers will have to drive out into the common-folk garages where they can park for free. An NBC Freedom of Information Act request showed that the government spends about $130,000 per year on these parking reimbursements.
- Airport VIP Parking Frequently Abused, Washington Post, 5/2/1979