Order Code 98-963 GOV
Updated October 30, 2002
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Selected Privileges and Courtesies
Extended to Former Senators
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Over the years, a number of privileges and courtesies have been made available to
former Members of the U.S. Senate. Although some are derived from law and Senate
rules, most are courtesies which have been extended as a matter of custom. Information
on some of the most important privileges and courtesies are presented in this report.
Benefits such as federal health insurance, life insurance, and retirement, however, are
not discussed. For additional information, please refer to CRS Report RL30361,
Retirement Benefits of Members of Congress, and CRS Report 96-585, Health Benefits
for Members of Congress. This report will be updated periodically as appropriate.
Privileges and Courtesies
Information on the privileges and courtesies accorded former Senators has been
compiled in consultation with the staff of the Senate Library. Other sources included the
offices of the Senate sergeant at arms, parliamentarian, postmaster, historian, stationery
store, and disbursing office; the Joint Committee on Printing; and the Washington
National Records Center of the National Archives Administration.1
(1) Floor Privileges. Former Senators are entitled to admission to the floor of the
Senate while it is in session (Senate Rule XXIII). However, any Senator, upon leaving
office, who becomes a registered lobbyist under the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act
of 1946 or any successor statute, or is employed or retained for the purpose of influencing
See also U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, U.S. Senate Edition
Congressional Handbook, 104th Cong., 1st sess., S.Prt. 104-64 (Washington: GPO, 1996), pp. I89 through I-101.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
legislation, may not lobby Members, officers, or employees of the Senate for one year
after leaving office2 (Senate Rule XXXVII, clause 8).
By tradition, former Senators are also accorded floor privileges in the House of
Representatives, including joint meetings and sessions of Congress.
(2) Purchase of Office Equipment. The sergeant at arms may sell to Senators
leaving office any item of office equipment located in their Washington or state offices,
subject to certain restrictions. The equipment must have reached its expected useful life
and been declared surplus to the needs of the Senate. Sales may be made only when a
Senator submits a written request to the sergeant at arms at least 30 days prior to leaving
office. Questions regarding the purchase of Senate office equipment should be directed
(3) Purchase of Senate Chamber Chair. Departing Senators may purchase
their Senate chamber chair upon written request to the Senate sergeant at arms. Staff may
purchase the chair as a gift to a Senator, but they must make a written request to the
sergeant at arms. The name plate on each Senator’s desk in the Senate chamber is either
automatically mailed to the Senator by the sergeant at arms when he or she leaves office,
or, upon request, mounted on the back of the purchased chamber chair. Questions
regarding the purchase of a chamber chair should be directed to 202-224-4171.
(4) Purchase of State Office Furnishings. Within 30 days prior to leaving
office, a departing Senator has the option to purchase through the office of the sergeant
at arms any furnishings provided by the General Services Administration (GSA) in one
home state office (2 U.S.C. 59(b)). The purchase shall be at depreciated fair market value
prices and in accordance with regulations prescribed by GSA. Questions regarding such
purchases should be directed to 202-224-5409.
(5) Storage/Shipment of Inactive Office Files. While a Senator is in office,
the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland, stores inactive office
files under a storage program authorized by the National Archives and Records
Under the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 (P.L. 101-194), all Members of Congress are prohibited,
for one year after leaving office, from lobbying or making advocacy contacts with any Member,
officer, or employee of either House of Congress or any employee of a legislative office (18
In addition, the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 prohibits Members of Congress, for one year after
leaving office, from representing an official foreign entity before the United States, or aiding or
advising such entity with the intent to influence any decision of an agency or employee of the
United States Government (18 U.S.C. 207(f)). There is a further restriction on Members who had
worked personally and substantially on a treaty or trade negotiation and who had access to
information which is not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. They are
prohibited from using such information for one year after leaving office for the purpose of aiding,
assisting, advising, or representing anyone other than the United States regarding such trade or
treaty negotiation (18 U.S.C. 207(b)(1)).
When Senators leave office, they are obligated to remove their papers from the
Center by mid-December. At a Senator’s request, the National Archives will return,
destroy, or prepare the papers for shipping. Records can be sent to a designated library
or educational institution, a state archives or historical society, or private residences.
Senators are requested to notify the Records Center about what should be done with the
stored records. For additional information, Senators should call the Washington National
Records Center at 301-778-1526.
(6) Archival Disposition of Office Files. The Senate Historical Office (202224-6900), upon request, will confer with offices about processing and planning for the
disposition of a Senator’s papers. The Historical Office has prepared The Records
Management Handbook (Senate Publication 105-54), which provides advice to current
and former Senators about the management of office papers and records.
(7) Franking Privilege. Former Senators are authorized to use the frank for a
period of 90 days immediately following the dates on which they leave office. Only
official matters relating to the closing of their offices are frankable (39 U.S.C.
3210(b)(c)). Anything sent under the frank should be mailed from the former Senator’s
home state or Washington, D.C.
(8) Other Mailing Service. The Senate Post Office will forward mail until
January 31 of the year following a Senator’s departure. For those who leave before the
end of a session, the Post Office will forward mail for up to one year. Any questions
regarding mail service for former Senators should be directed to 202-224-5353.
(9) Use of the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS provides
reference and research assistance on a limited basis to former Members of Congress.
They may use the La Follette Congressional Reading Room (LM-202 and LM-204 ), the
Product Distribution Center (LM-206), and the CRS Research Center in B07 Russell
Senate Office Building. Services available at these locations include reference collections
and assistance in the use of Library of Congress materials and resources. Former
Members may also receive CRS general distribution products, responses to reference
questions, and guidance for undertaking further research and analysis. CRS, however,
cannot undertake original research for former Members. Former Members may request
CRS assistance in person, by telephone (202-707-5700), by fax (202-707-6745), or by
writing to Daniel P. Mulhollan, Director, Congressional Research Service, Washington,
D.C. 20540-7000. Former congressional staff may use the Library of Congress public
reading rooms, but are not permitted to use the LaFollette Congressional Reading Room
or other CRS facilities. For additional information, contact Robert Newlen, head of the
CRS Legislative Relations Office, at 202-707-4313.
(10) Use of the Library of Congress. Borrowing privileges at the Library of
Congress are available to former Senators whose accounts are clear and who are residing
in the Washington, D.C., area. The telephone number of the loan division is 202-7075445. The Library is unable to make deliveries to former Members.
(11) Priority in Committee Testimony. When testifying before a congressional
committee, a former Senator frequently is permitted to testify immediately after
incumbent Members of Congress and before other witnesses.
(12) Parking at the Capitol Complex. Upon request, the Senate Parking Office
(202-224-8888) will issue a parking permit card to a former Senator. This allows him or
her to park in any Senate-controlled outdoor parking area when the card is displayed on
a car dashboard. No permit is available for indoor parking, but arrangements can
frequently be made on a day-to-day basis by calling the Senate Rules Committee (202224-6352).
Other traditional benefits and courtesies extended to former Senators include:
Services from the Senate Disbursing Office, including check cashing and
the purchase of traveler’s checks and assistance with retirement and other
Use of the Senate Credit Union;
Permanent ID from the Senate sergeant at arms;
Limited use of various Senators’ dining facilities;
Use of the Senate Library, including borrowing privileges;
Documents from the Senate document room upon personal request of the
Purchasing privileges in the Senate stationery room; and
Membership in the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress.