Allowances Available to Members of US Congress

Supplements to Salaries and Benefits

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Longley, Robert. "Allowances Available to Members of US Congress." ThoughtCo, Apr. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/allowances-to-members-of-congress-3322261. Longley, Robert. (2017, April 6). Allowances Available to Members of US Congress. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/allowances-to-members-of-congress-3322261 Longley, Robert. "Allowances Available to Members of US Congress." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/allowances-to-members-of-congress-3322261 (accessed September 23, 2017).
U.S. Capitol Building
Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

If they choose to accept them, all members of the United States Congress are given various allowances intended to cover personal expenses related carrying out their duties.

The allowances are provided in addition to the members’ salaries, benefits and allowed outside income. The salary for most Senators, Representatives, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico is $174,000. The Speaker of the House receives a salary of $223,500.

The president pro tempore of the Senate and the majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate receive $193,400.

The salaries of members of Congress have not changed since 2009.

Article I, Section 6, of the U.S. Constitution authorizes compensation for Members of Congress “ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.” Adjustments are governed by the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 and the 27th Amendment to the Constitution.

According the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, Congressional Salaries and Allowances, the allowances are provided to cover "official office expenses, including staff, mail, travel between a Member's district or state and Washington, DC, and other goods and services."

In the House of Representatives

The Members' Representational Allowance (MRA)

In the House of Representatives, the Members' Representational Allowance (MRA) is made available to help members defray expenses resulting from three specific components of their "representational duties," those being; the personal expenses component; the office expenses component; and the mailing expenses component.

Members are not allowed to use their MRA allowance to pay any personal or political campaigning expenses. Conversely, members are not allowed to use campaign funds to pay for expenses related to their daily congressional duties.

Members must pay any personal or office expenses in excess of the MRA out of their own pockets.

Each member receives the same amount of MRA funds for personal expenses. Allowances for office expenses vary from member to member based on the distance between the member's home district and Washington, D.C., and average rent for office space in the member's home district. Allowances for mailing vary based on the number of residential mailing addresses in the member's home district as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The House sets the funding levels for the MRA annually as part of the federal budget process. According to the CRS report, the House-passed fiscal year 2017 legislative branch appropriations bill would set this funding at $562.6 million.

In 2016, each Member’s MRA increased by 1% from the 2015 level, and the MRAs range from $1,207,510 to $1,383,709, with an average of $1,268,520.

Most of each member's annual MRA allowance is used to pay their office personnel. In 2016, for example, the office personnel allowance for each member was $944,671.

Each member is allowed to use their MRA to employ up to 18 full-time, permanent employees.

Some primary responsibilities of the congressional staffs in both the House and Senate include analysis and preparation of proposed legislation, legal research, government policy analysis, scheduling, constituent correspondence, and speech writing.

All members are required to provide a quarterly report detailing exactly how they spent their MRA allowances. All House MRA expenditures are reported in the quarterly Statement of Disbursements of the House.

In the Senate

The Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account (SOPOEA)

In the U.S. Senate, the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account (SOPOEA) is made up three separate allowances: the administrative and clerical assistance allowance; the legislative assistance allowance; and the official office expense allowance.

All Senators receive the same amount for the legislative assistance allowance. The size of the administrative and clerical assistance allowance and the office expense allowance vary based on the population of the state the senators represents, the distance between Washington, D.C.

and their home states, and limits authorized by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

The combined total of the three SOPOEA allowances can be used at the discretion of each Senator to pay for any type of official expenses they incur, including travel, office personnel or office supplies. However, expenses for mailing are currently limited to $50,000 per fiscal year.

The size of the SOPOEA allowances are adjusted and authorized within the "Contingent Expenses of the Senate," account in the annual legislative branch appropriations bills enacted as part of the annual federal budget process.

The allowance is provided for the fiscal year. The preliminary list of SOPOEA levels contained in the Senate report accompanying the fiscal year 2017 legislative branch appropriations bill shows a range of $3,043,454 to $4,815,203. The average allowance is $3,306,570.

Senators are prohibited from using any portion of their SOPOEA allowance for any personal or political purposes, including campaigning. Payment of any amount spent in excess of a senator's SOPOEA allowance must be paid by the senator.

Unlike in the House, the size of senators' administrative and clerical assistance staff is not specified. Instead, senators are free to structure their staffs as they choose, as long as they do not spend more than provided to them in the administrative and clerical assistance component of their SOPOEA allowance.

By law, all SOPOEA expenditures of each senator are published in the semiannual Report of the Secretary of the Senate,

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Longley, Robert. "Allowances Available to Members of US Congress." ThoughtCo, Apr. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/allowances-to-members-of-congress-3322261. Longley, Robert. (2017, April 6). Allowances Available to Members of US Congress. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/allowances-to-members-of-congress-3322261 Longley, Robert. "Allowances Available to Members of US Congress." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/allowances-to-members-of-congress-3322261 (accessed September 23, 2017).