Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Members’ Representational Allowance:
August 13, 2020
History and Usage
Ida A. Brudnick
Members of the House of Representatives have one consolidated allowance, the Members’
Specialist on the Congress
Representational Allowance (MRA), with which to operate their offices. The MRA was first

authorized in 1996 and was made subject to regulations and adjustments of the Committee on
House Administration. Representatives have a high degree of flexibility to use the MRA to

operate their offices in a way that supports their congressional duties and responsibilities, and
individual office spending may be as varied as the districts Members represent.
Over the last decade, the appropriation for the MRA
 reached a high in FY2010 of $660.0 million;
 decreased in FY2011, FY2012, and FY2013 (-7.1%, -6.4%, and -5.2%, respectively);
 increased in FY2014 (+1.9%) and remained flat in FY2015 (0.0%) and FY2016 (0.0%);
 increased from FY2016 to FY2017 (+1.5%) and remained flat in 2018 (0.0%);
 increased from FY2018 to FY2019 (+2.0%); and
 increased from FY2019 to FY2020 (+7.2%).
The House requested $672.0 (+9.3%) for FY2021. The House-reported bill recommended $640.0 million (+4.1%).
The reduction in the overall MRA appropriation from its FY2010 peak corresponded with a reduction to the individual MRA
authorization for each Member, which is available for expenses incurred fro m January 3 of each year through January 2 of
the following year. In the 112th Congress, the House agreed to H.Res. 22, which reduced the amount authorized for salaries
and expenses of Member, committee, and leadership offices in 2011 and 2012. This resolution, agreed to on January 6, 2011,
stated that the MRA allowances for these years may not exceed 95% of the amount established for 2010. Individual MRAs
were further reduced 6.4% in 2012 and 8.2% in 2013, before increasing 1.0% in 2014 and remaining flat in 2015. The 2016
allowances increased by 1.0%. The individual 2017 allowances initially increased by 3.9% from 2016, and then by another
$25,000 when the House agreed to H.Res. 411. In 2018, individual allowances were increased by $25,000. In 2019, they
were increased by 1.0%. In 2020, the individual allowances were increased by $62,250.
Information on individual office spending is published in the quarterly Statements of Disbursements of the House (SOD),
which have been made available online since 2009. Beginning with disbursements covering January-March 2016, this
website provides SOD information in a sortable CSV (comma-separated values) format.
In addition to recurring administrative provisions in the annual appropriations acts requiring unused amounts remaining in the
MRA be used for deficit reduction or to reduce the federal debt, numerous bills and resolutions addressing the MRA have
been introduced. This legislation has generally fallen into three major categories: (1) attempts to change the MRA procedure
or regulate, authorize, or encourage the use of funds for a particular purpose; (2) stand-alone legislation that would govern the
use of unexpended balances, including language to require these funds to go toward deficit reduction; and (3) bills that would
limit or change the growth of overall MRA or adjustment among Members.
This report provides a history and overview of the MRA and examines spending patterns in recent years. The data exclude
nonvoting Members, including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner, as well as Members who were not in Congress for
the entirety of the session. Information is provided on total spending and spending for various categories, including personnel
compensation; travel; rent, utilities, and communications; printing and reproduction; other services; supplies and materials;
equipment; and franked mail. The data collected demonstrate that, despite variations, many Members allocate their spending
in a similar manner, and spending allocation patterns have remained relatively consistent over time.
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Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1
Most Recent Actions: Expenses Related to the Coronavirus Pandemic ............................... 2
Establishment of the MRA ............................................................................................... 2
Subsequent MRA Legislation............................................................................................ 3
Appropriations Acts: Administrative Provisions Related to Unexpended Balances and
Deficit Reduction .................................................................................................... 3
Other MRA Legislation Introduced .............................................................................. 4
Appropriations and Al ocations: Timing Differences with the Overal Fiscal Year
Appropriation and Individual Member Calendar Year Authorization ..................................... 5
Fiscal Year Appropriations: Funding History ....................................................................... 6
Individual MRAs for Members: Formula and Authorized Levels Since 1996 ............................ 8
112th Congress: Resolution Reducing Individual Authorizations ................................ 10
113th Congress: Multiple Influences on Individual Authorized Levels ......................... 10
114th Congress ................................................................................................... 11
115th Congress ................................................................................................... 11
116th Congress ................................................................................................... 12
Guidelines, Operations, and Sources of Regulations ........................................................... 13
“Dear Colleague” Letters Related to the MRA ................................................................... 13
Categories of Spending .................................................................................................. 14
Statements of Disbursements: Online Publication and CSV Availability ................................ 14
The MRA in Historical Practice: An Analysis of Spending in Selected Years .......................... 15
Methodology .......................................................................................................... 15
Analysis ................................................................................................................. 15


Figures
Figure 1. MRA Funding: Current and Constant Dollars and Relationship to Overal
Funding for the House of Representatives ........................................................................ 8
Figure 2. MRA Allowances by Member: Maximum, Minimum, and Mean ............................. 10
Figure 3. Expenditures by Category, as a Percentage of Aggregate MRA Spending ................. 19

Tables
Table 1. MRA Appropriations: FY1996-FY2020 .................................................................. 7
Table 2. Variation in Individual MRA Authorization Levels: 1996-2020 .................................. 9
Table 3. Distribution of Office-Level Spending on Select Categories: 2009-2019 .................... 16
Table 4. Spending as a Percentage of Authorization: 2009-2019 ........................................... 20

Table A-1. Examples of Legislation Introduced to Regulate, Prohibit, Authorize,
Disclose, or Encourage the Use of the MRA for a Particular Purpose.................................. 21
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Table A-2. Examples of Legislation Introduced Regarding the Use of Unexpended
Balances ................................................................................................................... 23
Table A-3. Examples of Legislation Introduced to Limit the MRA ........................................ 23

Appendixes
Appendix. Examples of Legislation Introduced Affecting the MRA by Type .......................... 21

Contacts
Author Information ....................................................................................................... 24


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Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Introduction
Congressional office spending has been a regular topic of interest to academics, interest groups,
newspapers, and constituents for many years. It is a topic frequently mentioned in newspaper
articles that address individual Member spending or general y discuss financial accountability
among elected officials, and it has been examined by watchdog organizations and interest groups
covering congressional spending on internal operations general y. A few scholars have also
examined how Members typical y spend their office al owances, analyzing spending within
broader theories of representation.1 Individual office spending may be as varied as the districts
Members represent. Factors affecting spending include the tenure or interests of the Member,
levels of casework, geography, unexpected events, and even the congressional calendar.
While Representatives have a high degree of flexibility to operate their offices in a way that
supports their congressional duties and responsibilities, they must operate within a number of
restrictions and regulations. The Members’ Representational Al owance (MRA), the al owance
provided to Members of the House of Representatives to operate their DC and district offices,2
may only support Members in their official and representational duties. It may not be used for
personal or campaign purposes. Additional regulations or restrictions regarding reimbursable
expenses may be promulgated by the Committee on House Administration, the Commission on
Congressional Mailing Standards, also known as the Franking Commission, and the Committee
on Standards of Official Conduct, and may be found in a wide variety of sources, including
statute, House rules, committee resolutions, the Members’ Handbook,3 the Franking Manual,4 the
House Ethics Manual, “Dear Colleague” letters, and formal and informal guidance.5
This report provides a history of the MRA and overview of recent developments. It also
demonstrates actual MRA spending patterns in recent years for al voting Members who served
for a defined period.6 Spending and practices across offices and across time vary, and an

1 Burdett Loomis and Wendy Schiller, The Contemporary Congress, 5th ed. (Belmont, CA: T hompson-Wadsworth,
2006), Ch. 7-8; Richard F. Fenno, Jr., Congressm en in Com m ittees (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973), p. 1; David Mayhew,
Congress: The Electoral Connection (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), p. 49; Gary W. Cox and Jonathan N.
Katz, “Why Did the Incumbency Advantage in the U.S. House Elections Grow?” American Journal of Political
Science
, vol. 40, no. 2 (May 1996), pp. 479-481; and, David C.W. Parker and Craig Goodman, “ Making a Good
Impression: Resource Allocation, Home Styles, and Washington Work,” Legislative Studies Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 4
(November 2009), pp. 493-524. One study of MRA expenditures during the 106 th Congress, for example, examined the
effect of a Member’s standing within the House, time in office, and plans for retirement or reelection on spending
(Garry Young, “Choosing How to Represent: House Members and the Distribution of T heir Representational
Allowances,” updated version of a paper presented at the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, April 7,
2005, pp. 15-18, available at http://home.gwu.edu/~youngg/research/Homestyle%20Choices%20v3.02.pdf).
2 For additional information on the resources available to Members of Congress, see CRS Report RL30064,
Congressional Salaries and Allowances: In Brief, by Ida A. Brudnick.
3 Available at https://cha.house.gov/.
4 Available at https://cha.house.gov/.
5 Available at https://ethics.house.gov/sites/ethics.house.gov/files/documents/2008_House_Ethics_Manual.pdf.
6 Information on spending by certain Members was excluded from the observation data and summary findings because
of characteristics related to the district or stat us or tenure of the Member. Nonvoting Members, including the Delegates
and the Resident Commissioner, have been subject to the same expense formula as other Members since January 1,
1983 (P.L. 97-357, 96 Stat 1711, October 19, 1982), although the distance from D.C., size of population, or both, may
vary greatly from other Members. Members who were not in Congress for all of a calendar year, whether the Member
left Congress prior to the end of the year or entered any time after the beginning of the session, were excluded from the
calculations from that year since spending for any portion may not be reflective of allocati ons for an uninterrupted year.
T his limitation resulted in the following number of Members included in the data: for 2009, 429; 2010, 428; 2011, 430;
2012, 426; 2013, 428; 2014, 430; 2015, 431; 2016, 431; 2017, 426; 2018, 424; and 2019, 428.
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examination of additional Congresses would be required for a more complete picture of
congressional office spending patterns.
Most Recent Actions: Expenses Related to the Coronavirus
Pandemic
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act, P.L. 116-136, enacted
March 27, 2020) provided additional funding to al ow legislative branch entities “to prevent,
prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestical y or international y.” Funding included $25.0
mil ion for the “House of Representatives, Salaries and Expenses.” This account funds al
activities of the House, but it does not fund salaries of Members of Congress.
Although individual MRA levels were not adjusted, Member offices were provided with
additional flexibilities due to the coronavirus pandemic. On March 16, 2020, the Committee on
House Administration (CHA) issued a “Dear Colleague” letter stating that, while ordinary
commuting expenses are not reimbursable, staff experiencing “unique commuting expenses
associated with the coronavirus” could seek reimbursement.7 CHA also “authorized Member and
Committee Offices to use their remaining LY19 funds towards unanticipated expenses for
teleworking equipment, teletownhal s, and supplies. Acceptable purchases include desktop
computers, laptops, tablets, docking stations, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, multi-function
printers (scanner/fax/copier/printer), toner, and cel phones for continuity of operations
(COOP).”8 Offices could also use available legislative year 2020 funds. CHA also adopted new
regulations governing House paid interns due to the circumstances of the pandemic, including
al owing funds to be used for interns in district offices, al owing paid interns to telework, and
al owing House offices to issue paid interns House equipment such as laptops or phones.9 Face
masks purchased for official business were also deemed reimbursable.10 Additional telework
support, including technical assistance and training and continuity of operations (COOP)
planning, was also provided by the House Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and the House
Sergeant at Arms. In addition, the CAO “purchased several hundred plexiglass barriers of various
types that wil be offered to D.C. offices at no cost,” and the purchase of additional barriers by
House offices is considered a reimbursable expense.11
Establishment of the MRA
The MRA, which was first authorized in 1996, was preceded by multiple al owances for each
Member covering different categories of spending—including the former clerk hire al owance,
official expenses al owance, and official mail al owance. The establishment of the MRA followed

7 Dear Colleague letter from the Committee on House Administration, “Update about the coronavirus: commuting
expenses,” March 16, 2020. See also Dear Colleague letters of March 6 and March 11, 2020, and joint guidance from
the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Ethics issued on March 15, 2020.
8 “Use of LY19 Funds for Continuity of Operations Supplies,” March 24, 2020, available to House offices on
HouseNet.
9 Dear Colleague letter from the Committee on House Administration, “Updated House Paid Internship Program
Regulations and Intern T elework Policy,” May 6, 2020, and https://cha.house.gov/member-services/house-paid-
internship-program.
10 Dear Colleague letter from the Chief Administrative Officer, “Availability of Hand Sanitizer and Face Coverings for
Member and Committee Offices,” April 21, 2020.
11 Dear Colleague letter from the Chief Administrative Officer and the Attending Physician, “Guidelines for Modified
Office Occupancy,” June 15, 2020.
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efforts by the House, dating back to the late 1970s, to move to a system of increased flexibility
and accountability for Member office operations.12
In September 1995, the Committee on House Administration authorized the consolidation of
these al owances.13 Subsequently, in November 1995, the FY1996 Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act combined the separate appropriations for personal office staff, official office
expenses, and mail costs into a single new appropriations heading, “Members’ Representational
Al owances.”14 According to the House Appropriations Committee report on the FY1996 bil , the
consolidation was adopted to simplify Members’ accounting practices and al owed Members to
more easily show savings achieved when they did not spend al of their al owance.15 Subsequent
legislation in 1996 further defined the MRA and made it subject to regulations and adjustments
adopted by the Committee on House Administration.16 Additional provisions included in the
FY2000 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act amended language regarding official mail and
repealed obsolete language and terms.17
Subsequent MRA Legislation
Appropriations Acts: Administrative Provisions Related to
Unexpended Balances and Deficit Reduction
Since the MRA’s establishment, appropriations acts funding the legislative branch have
contained—or continued, in the case of a continuing resolution—a provision requiring unused
amounts remaining in the MRA be used for deficit reduction or to reduce the federal debt.18
This provision was included in legislative branch appropriations bil s reported by the House
Appropriations Committee in FY1999 and since FY2002. In some years prior to consideration of
FY2002 funding, it was added by amendment, including
 H.Amdt. 458 (403-21, Roll no. 415) to H.R. 1854, 104th Congress (Legislative
Branch Appropriations Act, 1996);

12 See, for example, House Administration Committee Orders 35, 38, 39, and 40 (effective May 1, 1983; August 1,
1985; March 15, 1990; and May 8, 1991, respectively). These were reprinted within the notes for 2 U.S.C. 57 in prior
versions of the U.S. Code.
13 Committee Order No. 41, effective September 1, 1995.
14 P.L. 104-53, 109 Stat. 519 (November 19, 1995).
15 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 1996, report to
accompany H.R. 1854, 104th Cong., 1st sess., H.Rept. 104-141 (Washington: GPO, 1995), p. 10.
16 P.L. 104-186, 110 Stat. 1719 (August 20, 1996); 2 U.S.C. 5341.
17 P.L. 106-57, 113 Stat. 415 (September 29, 1999).
18 T he first few laws with this provision referred to the federal deficit. A budget deficit (or surplus) is calculated based
on total spending of the entire federal government less total revenue collected. Since P.L. 106-57 (September 29, 1999),
these provisions have also referred to the debt, stating any amounts remaining after all payments are made “ shall be
deposited in the T reasury and used for deficit reduction (or, if there is no Federal budget deficit after all such payments
have been made, for reducing the Federal debt, in such manner as the Secretary of the T reasury considers appropriate).”
Annual legislative branch appropriations bills with this language include P.L. 104-53, P.L. 104-197, P.L. 105-55, P.L.
105-275, P.L. 106-57, P.L. 106-554, P.L. 107-68, P.L. 108-7, P.L. 108-83, P.L. 108-447, P.L. 109-55, P.L. 110-161,
P.L. 111-8, P.L. 111-68, P.L. 112-74, P.L. 113-6, P.L. 113-76, P.L. 113-235, P.L. 114-113, P.L. 115-31, P.L. 115-141,
P.L. 115-244, and P.L. 116-94. T he two long-term continuing resolutions (also known as CRs) enacted during this
period—P.L. 110-5 and P.L. 112-10—continued this language from prior years. T he FY2021 House-reported
legislative branch appropriations bill (H.R. 7611) also continues this language.
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 H.Amdt. 1245 (voice vote) to H.R. 3754, 104th Congress (Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act, 1997);
 H.Amdt. 287 (voice vote) to H.R. 2209, 105th Congress (Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act, 1998);
 H.Amdt. 166 (voice vote) to H.R. 1905, 106th Congress (Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act, 2000); and,
 H.Amdt. 865 (voice vote) to H.R. 4516, 106th Congress (Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act, 2001).
Other MRA Legislation Introduced
In addition to the appropriations language, numerous bil s and resolutions addressing the MRA
have been introduced (for examples, see tables in the Appendix). This legislation has general y
fal en into three major categories:
 Attempts to change the MRA procedure or regulate, prohibit, authorize, disclose,
or encourage the use of funds for a particular purpose.
 Stand-alone legislation that would govern the use of unexpended balances,
including language to require these funds to go toward deficit reduction.
 Bil s or resolutions that would limit or change the growth of overal MRA or
adjustment among Members.
MRA-related amendments have also been offered to the legislative branch appropriations bil s.
These include
 H.Amdt. 213, which was offered to H.R. 3219, the FY2018 legislative branch
appropriations bil , increasing funding for the Government Accountability Office,
offset by a reduction in the Members’ Representational Al owance, which failed
by voice vote.
 H.Amdt. 214, which was offered to H.R. 3219, the FY2018 legislative branch
appropriations bill, relating to the use of the Members’ Representational
Al owance for Member security, was agreed to by voice vote.
 H.Amdt. 642, which was offered to H.R. 4487, the FY2015 Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act, on May 1, 2014. This amendment, which would have
prohibited the use of the MRA for leased vehicles, excluding mobile district
offices and short-term vehicle rentals, was not agreed to by a recorded vote (Roll
no. 188).
 H.Amdt. 1284, which was offered to H.R. 5882, the FY2013 Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act, on June 8, 2012. This amendment, which would have
prohibited paid advertisements on any internet site other than an official site of
the Member, leadership office, or committee involved, was not agreed to by a
recorded vote (Roll no. 375).
 H.Amdt. 708, which was offered to H.R. 2551, the FY2012 Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act, on July 21, 2011. The amendment, which prohibited the use
of funds to make any payments from any MRA for the leasing of a vehicle in an
amount that exceeds $1,000 in any month, was agreed to by voice vote. This
language was included in P.L. 112-74 and subsequent legislative branch
appropriations acts. H.Amdt. 709 and H.Amdt. 710, which also proposed
restrictions on the MRA, failed by voice vote.
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Appropriations and Allocations: Timing Differences
with the Overall Fiscal Year Appropriation and
Individual Member Calendar Year Authorization
Funding is provided on a fiscal year (beginning October 1) basis and a single total amount for al
Members is provided under the appropriations heading, “Members’ Representational
Al owances,” within the House account “Salaries and Expenses” contained in the annual
legislative branch appropriations bil s.
Al owance or authorization levels for individual Members of the House are authorized in statute
and are regulated and adjusted by the Committee on House Administration pursuant to 2 U.S.C.
4313 et seq. and House Rule X(1)(j). The individual MRAs for the 441 Members, Delegates, and
the Resident Commissioner are authorized for periods that correspond closely to the sessions of
Congress—from January 3 of each year through January 2 of the following year.
In addition to the complexity involved in different time frames and split responsibilities—with
the appropriation on a fiscal year determined by the Committee on Appropriations, and the
authorization roughly following the calendar year as al ocated by the Committee on House
Administration—the House has indicated that the total authorized level for al MRAs may be
more than the total appropriation due to projections on spend-out rates.
Most recently, for example, the House Appropriations Committee report accompanying the
FY2020 legislative branch appropriations bil stated that, of the amount recommended, “Almost
half of the increase is needed just to bring the appropriation more in line with currently authorized
spending.”19
A discussion of the use of prior spending patterns in the determination of MRA appropriations
levels was included in numerous House reports, particularly in the first few years of the MRA.20
For example, the FY1997 report accompanying the legislative branch appropriations bil stated,
Many Members do not expend their full allowance. That is why the Committee bill does
not fully fund this account. The frugality of those Members is already projected in the bil
presented by the Committee. Since these prospective savings are already taken in the bill,
they reduce the need for appropriated funds and, therefore, contribute directly to the
reduction in federal spending and consequently lower the projected deficit. If the
Committee bill were to fully fund the Members’ Representational Allowance, the amount

19 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 2020, H.Rept. 116-64,
report to accompany H.R. 2779 (Washington, GPO: 2019) p. 2.
20 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 1996, H.Rept. 104-
141, report to accompany H.R. 1854 (Washington, GPO: 1995) p. 12; U.S. Congress, House Committee on
Appropriations, Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 1998 , H.Rept. 105-196, report to accompany H.R. 2209
(Washington, GPO: 1997) p. 10; U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Legislative Branch
Appropriations Bill, 1999
, H.Rept. 105-595, report to accompany H.R. 4112 (Washington, GPO: 1998) p. 10; U.S.
Congress, House Committee on Appropriation s, Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 2000 , H.Rept. 106-156, report
to accompany H.R. 1905 (Washington, GPO: 1999) p. 11; U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations,
Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 2001 , H.Rept. 106-635, report to accompany H.R. 4516 (Washington, GPO:
2000) p. 11; U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 2010,
H.Rept. 111-160, report to accompany H.R. 2918 (Washington, GPO: 2009) p. 8.
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appropriated would have to be increased by $27 million. Thus, the account is underfunded
by almost 7%.21
This difference was also discussed during a hearing on the FY2009 legislative branch
appropriations requests.22
Pursuant to law, late-arriving bil s may be paid for up to two years following the end of the MRA
year.23 The permissibility of payment for late-arriving bil s does not provide flexibility in the
timing of the obligation, a point emphasized in the Members’ Congressional Handbook, which
states: “al expenses incurred wil be charged to the al owance available on the date the services
were provided or the expenses were incurred” and the “MRA is not transferable between years.”24
Fiscal Year Appropriations: Funding History
The MRA is funded in the House “Salaries and Expenses” account in the annual legislative
branch appropriations bil s. One single line-item provides funding for al Members’ MRAs.
The MRA funding level peaked at $660.0 mil ion in FY2010. It was subsequently reduced to
$613.1 mil ion in FY2011 (-7.1%), and then to $573.9 mil ion in FY2012 (-6.4%). The FY2012
funding level was continued in the FY2013 continuing resolution (P.L. 113-6), not including
sequestration or an across-the-board rescission (-5.2%). The FY2014 level of $554.3 mil ion was
continued in the FY2015 act (P.L. 113-235) and the FY2016 act (P.L. 114-113).
At an April 20, 2016, markup of the FY2017 bil , the House Appropriations Committee
Legislative Branch Subcommittee recommended a continuation of this level. At the May 17,
2016, full committee markup, an amendment offered by Representative Farr to increase this level
by $8.3 mil ion, to $562.6 mil ion (+1.5%), was agreed to. This level was included in the House-
passed FY2017 bil (H.R. 5325). H.R. 5325 was not enacted, however, this increase was provided
in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-31), which was enacted on May 5, 2017.

21 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 1997, H.Rept. 104-
657, report to accompany H.R. 3754 (Washington, GPO: 1996) p. 11.
22 At this hearing, Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard indicated that the appropriation “is usually 92 or 93 percent
of the authorization.” U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch,
Legislative Branch Appropriations for 2009, hearings, 110th Cong., 2nd sess., April 9, 2008 (Washington: GPO, 2008),
pp. 518-519, 528-529.
23 T he two-year period for late receipts for Congress is shorter relative to annual appropriations for much of the rest of
the federal government, which is subject to a five-year period (31 U.S.C. 1551 et al.). T his is discussed in the
Principles of Federal Appropriations Law. T his publication states: “ For appropriations of the House and Senate,
unobligated balances more than two years old cannot be used short of an act of Congress. Instead, obligations
chargeable to appropriations that have been expired for more than 2 years ‘shall be liquidated from any appropriations
for the same general purpose, which, at the time of payment, are available for disbursement.’ 2 U.S.C. §102a.” United
States General Accounting Office, Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, T hird Edition, vol. I, January 2004,
http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/3rdEditionVol1.pdf, pp. 5-76 – 5-77. Chapter 5 (“ Availability of Appropriations:
T ime”) also has a section on the “ Evolution of the Law” related to the treatment of unexpended balances. Another
section in this chapter, on “Closed Appropriation Accounts” contains the following footnote on T reasury operations
and the treatment of closed appropriations: “We commonly talk about “returning” appropriation balances to the
T reasury. In point of fact, for the most part, they never leave the T reasury to be gin with. An appropriation does not
represent cash actually set aside in the T reasury. Government obligations are liquidated as needed through revenues
and borrowing. T hus, the reversion of funds to the T reasury is not a movement of actual cash, but a book keeping
adjustment that in the various ways discussed in the text, affects the government’s legal authority to incur obligations
and make expenditures.”
24 T he Members’ Handbook. Available at https://cha.house.gov/.
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The FY2017 level was continued for FY2018. The FY2019 level of $573.6 mil ion represents an
increase of $10.998 mil ion (+2.0%). This funding is separate from an al owance for interns in
Member offices that was first funded in FY2019 ($8.8 mil ion for up to $20,000 per office).
The FY2020 law (P.L. 116-94) provides $615.0 mil ion, an increase of $41.4 mil ion (+7.2%). A
separate account contains $11.0 mil ion for interns in House Member offices.
Table 1 provides the appropriation for the overal MRA account for al Members from FY1996
through FY2020. Figure 1 shows the same information in current and constant (2020) dollars.
The FY2020 enacted funding level is
 a decrease of approximately 6.8% from the peak funding provided in FY2010,
not adjusted for inflation (21.2% below when adjusted for inflation); and
 approximately 3.8% above the funding level provided when the account was
established in FY1996, when adjusted for inflation (an increase of approximately
70.6% in nominal dollars).25
Table 1. MRA Appropriations: FY1996-FY2020
(in thousands of current dol ars)
Fiscal
Year
$
Fiscal Year
$
Fiscal Year
$
Fiscal Year
$
1996
360,503
2003
476,536
2010
660,000
2017
562,632
1997
363,313
2004
514,454
2011
613,052
2018
562,632
1998
379,789
2005
538,655
2012
573,939
2019
573,630
1999
385,279
2006
534,109
2013
543,919
2020
615,000
2000
406,279
2007
554,716
2014
554,318


2001
420,182
2008
579,548
2015
554,318


2002
475,422
2009
609,000
2016
554,318


Source: Annual and supplemental appropriations conference reports, acts, and committee prints.
The House-reported FY2021 legislative branch appropriations bil (H.R. 7611) recommends
$640.0 mil ion (+4.1%).
Figure 1 also shows that the MRA is the largest category of appropriations within the House of
Representatives, regularly comprising approximately 50% of House appropriations.

25 Constant (2020) dollar calculations are based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U, Bureau
of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor).
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Figure 1. MRA Funding: Current and Constant Dollars and Relationship to Overall
Funding for the House of Representatives
(FY1996-FY2020)

Source: CRS calculations based upon annual legislative branch appropriations acts, including supplemental
appropriations and rescissions. Constant (2020) dol ars based on Consumer Price Index for Al Urban
Consumers (CPI-U, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor).
Individual MRAs for Members: Formula and
Authorized Levels Since 1996
The MRA for each Member is set by the Committee on House Administration based on three
components: personnel, official office expenses, and official (franked) mail. The personnel
al owance component is the same for each Member. The office expenses and mail al owances
components vary from Member to Member. The office expense component includes a base
amount; a mileage al owance, which is calculated based on the distance between a Member’s
district and Washington, DC; and an office space al owance, which is based on the cost of office
space in a Member’s district. The official mail component is calculated based on the number of
nonbusiness addresses in a Member’s district. The three components result in a single MRA
authorization for each Representative that can be used to pay for official expenses.26
Table 2 demonstrates the variation in authorization levels that resulted from this formula since
1996. Figure 2 presents this information graphical y.
The 2020 individual Member authorizations remain below the levels authorized in 2010, which
was the peak year for MRA funding. Additional information on actions taken to adjust the annual
individual al owances follows.

26 For the 2019 formula, see U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements of the House, as compiled by the Chief
Administrative Officer, from January 1, 2019, to March 31 , 2019, part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 116-26, 116th Cong., 1st sess.
(Washington: GPO, 2019), p. 2981.
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Table 2. Variation in Individual MRA Authorization Levels: 1996-2020
(current dol ars)
Average
Lower Quartile
Median
Upper Quartile
Year
Minimum
(Mean)
Maximum
(25th Percentile)
(50th Percentile)
(75th Percentile)
1996
$824,671
$886,751
$1,026,976
$865,420
$881,682
$902,167
1997
$836,231
$901,165
$1,038,535
$879,620
$896,606
$918,490
1998
$854,904
$919,396
$1,056,176
$897,967
$914,672
$936,395
1999
$885,424
$952,102
$1,088,405
$930,137
$947,661
$967,940
2000
$914,895
$985,831
$1,122,018
$962,571
$981,204
$1,001,807
2001 $1,009,420 $1,081,069
$1,216,831
$1,057,403
$1,076,568
$1,097,123
2002 $1,043,283 $1,114,319
$1,258,737
$1,089,931
$1,109,598
$1,130,975
2003 $1,116,519 $1,191,527
$1,338,831
$1,166,075
$1,186,107
$1,212,784
2004 $1,152,825 $1,234,976
$1,370,805
$1,206,116
$1,228,892
$1,258,233
2005 $1,188,715 $1,286,784
$1,524,617
$1,253,938
$1,278,424
$1,310,388
2006 $1,218,685 $1,335,086
$1,574,753
$1,301,692
$1,326,374
$1,360,650
2007 $1,262,065 $1,356,251
$1,600,539
$1,322,060
$1,346,203
$1,383,810
2008 $1,299,292 $1,393,391
$1,637,766
$1,359,350
$1,383,430
$1,420,454
2009 $1,391,370 $1,484,174
$1,722,242
$1,451,041
$1,475,849
$1,510,755
2010 $1,428,395 $1,522,114
$1,759,575
$1,488,258
$1,513,947
$1,549,464
2011 $1,356,975 $1,446,009
$1,671,596
$1,413,845
$1,438,250
$1,471,991
2012 $1,270,129 $1,353,205
$1,564,613
$1,323,334
$1,345,972
$1,377,773
2013 $1,183,717 $1,243,560
$1,356,445
$1,226,726
$1,240,212
$1,257,959
2014 $1,195,554 $1,255,909
$1,370,009
$1,239,263
$1,252,531
$1,270,493
2015 $1,195,554 $1,255,960
$1,370,009
$1,239,165
$1,252,531
$1,270,516
2016 $1,207,510 $1,268,520
$1,383,709
$1,251,557
$1,265,056
$1,283,221
2017a $1,251,177 $1,315,523
$1,433,709
$1,298,423
$1,311,873
$1,329,280
2018 $1,307,510 $1,368,520
$1,483,709
$1,351,457
$1,365,056
$1,383,243
2019 $1,320,585 $1,382,329
$1,498,546
$1,365,073
$1,378,707
$1,397,053
2020 $1,382,835 $1,444,579
$1,560,796
$1,427,323
$1,440,957
$1,459,303
Source: CRS calculations based on the Statements of Disbursements for 1996-2020 (in current dol ars). The
Member al owances are available from January 3 through January 2 of the fol owing year.
Notes: The calculations exclude nonvoting Members, including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner.
Members elected by special election and sworn in during the quarter are also excluded since the al owance level
may be prorated.
a. Levels represent the initial 2017 authorizations and do not include the increase of $25,000 for each
authorization provided by H.Res. 411, which was agreed to on June 27, 2017.
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Figure 2. MRA Allowances by Member: Maximum, Minimum, and Mean
(current dol ars, 1996-2020)

Source: CRS calculations based on the Statements of Disbursements including expenses for 1996-2020 (in current
dol ars). The Member al owances are available from January 3 through January 2 of the fol owing year.
Notes: The calculations exclude nonvoting Members, including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner.
Members elected by special election and sworn in after the start of the session also excluded since their
al owance level may be prorated.
112th Congress: Resolution Reducing Individual Authorizations
In the 112th Congress (2011-2012), the House agreed to H.Res. 22, which reduced the amount
authorized for salaries and expenses of Member, committee, and leadership offices in 2011 and
2012. This resolution, agreed to on January 6, 2011, stated that the MRA al owances for these
years may not exceed 95% of the amount established for 2010. Individual MRAs, which reflect
authorized levels from January 3 of each year through January 2 of the following year,
subsequently were reduced, resulting in a total reduction of 11.08% from 2010 to 2012.27
113th Congress: Multiple Influences on Individual Authorized Levels
Individual authorization levels for 2013 (January 3, 2013-January 2, 2014), which were affected
by both redistricting28 and sequestration,29 were reduced by a total of 8.2% according to the

27 T he Statement contains the following: “T he total amount of each Member’s 2012 Rep resentational Allowance is
88.92% of the amount authorized in 2010. T his is in accordance with a 5% reduction to the 2010 authorization
mandated in House Resolution 22, agreed to on January 6, 2011, and a 6.4% reduction to the 2011 authorization as
reflect ed in H.R. 2055, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74).” U.S. Congress, House, Statem ent of
Disbursem ents of the House
, as compiled by the Chief Administrative Officer, from October 1, 2012, to December 31,
2012, part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 112-160, 112th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, 2012), p. 2409.
28 T he individual authorizations correspond to the legislative year (January 3-January 2), while appropriations
correspond to the fiscal year (beginning October 1). T he 2013 authorization was the first to follow redistricting after the
2010 census and 2012 election cycle. Since the variables in the MRA formula—including distance from DC, the cost of
office space, and the number of nonbusiness addresses—account for district characteristics, the individual MRA may
vary following redistricting.
29 Pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25), as amended by the American T axpayer Relief Act of 2012
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Statement of Disbursements.30 For legislative year 2014 (January 3, 2014-January 2, 2015), each
Member’s MRA increased by 1.0%.31
114th Congress
The FY2015 MRA appropriations level remained unchanged from FY2014, and Members’
individual al owances were continued from legislative year 2014 to 2015.32
The FY2016 MRA appropriations level remained unchanged from FY2014 and FY2015, although
Members’ individual al owances for legislative year 2016 were increased by 1.0%.33
115th Congress
The FY2017 MRA appropriations level increased by +1.5% from FY2016. According to the
Statement of Disbursements, each Member’s authorization for 2017 was increased “by
approximately 3.9% of the average MRA.”34 This resulted in an average increase of
approximately $47,000.
A shooting on June 14, 2017, at a practice for the Congressional Basebal Game, which wounded
one Member of Congress, two U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers, and two members of the
public in Alexandria, VA, had an impact on consideration of MRA funding for FY2018.
The report accompanying the legislative branch appropriations bil (H.R. 3162), in addition to
addressing funding for the Capitol Police and the House Sergeant at Arms, indicated that the
Appropriations “Committee has provided resources necessary to support the Committee on House
Administration’s plan to increase Member’s Representational Al owance (MRA) by $25,000 per

(P.L. 112-240), a sequestration order was issued on March 1, 2013 (White House, President Obama, Sequestration
Order for Fiscal Year 2013 Pursuant to Section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, As
Amended, March 1, 2013, available at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/DCPD-201300132/pdf/DCPD-
201300132.pdf).
30 T he Statement contained the following: “Because the House is operating under a continuing resolution at FY 2012
levels, the total amount of funds available for MRAs remains unchanged.* However, to account for redistricting and
other factors, individual MRAs have been recalculated using the sum of the following components adjusted
proportionally to ensure the total is consistent with 2012 funding levels.... *This am ount was reduced on March 4,
2013, by 8.2% to com ply with sequestration orders issued pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011
.” U.S. Congress,
House, Statem ent of Disbursem ents of the House, as compiled by the Chief Administrative Officer, from April 1, 2013,
to June 30, 2013, part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 113 -41, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, 2013), p. 2597.
31 U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements of the House, as compiled by the Chief Administrative Officer,
from April 1, 2014, to June 30, 2014, part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 113 -141, 113th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO, 2014), p.
2559.
32 U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements of the House, as compiled by the Chief Administrative Officer,
from January 1, 2015, to March 31, 2015, part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 114-29, 114th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, 2015),
p. 2854.
33 U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements of the House, as compiled by the Chief Administrative Officer,
from January 1, 2016, to March 31, 2016, part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 114 -120, 114th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO,
2016), p. 2861. For information on the relationship between the appropriations and allocations, see the section on
“Appropriations and Allocations: T iming Differences with the Overall Fiscal Year Appropriation and Individual
Member Calendar Year Authorization
.”
34 U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements of the House, as compiled by the Chief Administrative Officer,
from April 1, 2017, to June 30, 2017 , part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 115-52, 115th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, 2017), p.
2664.
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account this year for the purpose of providing Member security when away from the Capitol
complex.”35
The House approved the MRA authorization increases when it agreed to H.Res. 411, by
unanimous consent, on June 27, 2017.
As stated above, during consideration in the House of the FY2018 legislative branch
appropriations bil (H.R. 3219)36 on July 26, 2017, two amendments related to the MRA were
offered: H.Amdt. 214 was agreed to by voice vote, and H.Amdt. 213 failed by voice vote.
Subsequently, on July 28, 2017, House Sergeant at Arms Paul D. Irving issued a “Dear
Colleague” letter announcing that his office “wil assume the cost of and oversee future District
Office security upgrades, maintenance, and monthly monitoring fees.”37 These upgrades were
previously supported through the MRA.
On August 15, 2017, the Committee on House Administration issued a “Dear Colleague” letter
announcing updates to the Members’ Congressional Handbook incorporating these and other
changes.38 The MRA remains available for security measures necessitated by official duties as
discussed in the letter and the Handbook.
The FY2018 act continued the FY2017 level of $562.6 mil ion. According to the Statement of
Disbursements
, the “Members’ Representational Al owance for 2018 utilizes each Member’s
2017 amount and increases that amount by $25,000.”39
116th Congress
The FY2019 act provided $573.6 mil ion (+2.0%). According to the Statement of Disbursements,
Members’ individual al owances for legislative year 2019 were increased by 1.0%.40
The FY2020 law (P.L. 116-94) provides $615.0 mil ion, an increase of $41.4 mil ion (+7.2%).
According to the Statement of Disbursements, Members’ individual al owances for legislative
year 2020 were increased by $62,250.41

35 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Legislative Branch, Legislative Branch,
2018
, report to accompany H.R. 3162, 115th Cong., 1st sess., July 6, 2017, H.Rept. 115-199 (Washington: GPO, 2017),
p. 3. See also the Mem bers’ Congressional Handbook, https://cha.house.gov.
36 On July 18, the text of H.R. 3162 was included in a print issued by the House Rules Committee entitled, “Text of the
Defense, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Legislative Branch, and Energy And Water Development National
Security Appropriations Act, 2018” (Committee Print 115 -30, which also contains the text of H.R. 3219, H.R. 2998,
and H.R. 3266). Subsequently, the House agreed on September 14 to H.Res. 500, which included the text of Rules
Committee Print 115-31, as amended, in an amendment in the nature of a substitute for H.R. 3354. T he text of the
legislative branch bill, as agreed to in H.R. 3219, was unchanged. H.R. 3354, which then included text for all 12
appropriations bills, was agreed to in the House on September 14, 2017.
37 Available to House offices at https://e-dearcolleague.house.gov/.
38 T he updated Handbook is available at https://cha.house.gov/.
39 U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements of the House, as compiled by the Chief Administrative Officer,
from July 1, 2018, to September 30, 2018, part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 115 -161, 115th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO,
2018), p. 2523.
40 U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements of the House, as compiled by the Chief Administrative Officer,
from January 1, 2019, to March 31, 2019, part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 116-26, 116th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, 2019),
p. 2981.
41 U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements of the House, as compiled by the Chief Administrative Officer,
from January 1, 2020, to March 31, 2020, part 3 of 3, H.Doc. 116 -116, 116th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington: GPO,
2020), p. 3399.
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The House requested $672.0 mil ion for FY2021, an increase of $57.0 mil ion (+9.3%). The
House-reported FY2021 legislative branch appropriations bil (H.R. 7611) recommends $640.0
mil ion (+4.1%).
Guidelines, Operations, and Sources of Regulations
Expenses related to official and representational duties are reimbursable under the MRA in
accordance with the regulations contained in the Members’ Congressional Handbook.
The Handbook, for example, states that a
Member is personally responsible for the payment of any official and representational
expenses incurred that exceed the provided MRA or that are incurred but are not
reimbursable under these regulations.42
Certain expenses, including personal expenses, greeting cards, alcoholic beverages, and most
gifts and donations, are also not reimbursable. The MRA is not transferable between years, and
unspent funds from one year cannot be obligated in any subsequent year.
Other limitations on the use of official funds are also contained in House Rule XXIV.
“Dear Colleague” Letters Related to the MRA
“Dear Colleague” letters—which are distributed among Members, committees, and officers—
frequently mention the MRA. These “Dear Colleague” letters have announced changes in the
dissemination of information or the processing of vouchers, elaborated on procedures, reminded
Members and staff of guidelines on the use of funds, and asked for support for MRA legislation.
The Committee on House Administration, for example, has distributed regular annual “Dear
Colleagues” announcing or explaining regulations, such as those pertaining to end-of-year
expenses, district office space, and travel.43 Other letters have been issued regarding al owable
franking and MRA expenses for the annual Congressional Art Competition or travel for a
Member’s funeral service, as wel as reminders of prohibited expenses.44 The letters have
explained the implication of new regulations, rulings, or decisions on MRA spending.45 They also
have summarized changes to the Statement of Disbursements and announced the publication of
new quarterly information.46

42 T he Members’ Handbook is available at https://cha.house.gov/.
43 For example, recent Dear Colleague letters issued by the Committee on House Administration have included
“Deadline to Use Obligated Funds-April 1,” March 26, 2019; “End-of-Year Expenses: Policies and Best Practices,”
December 6, 2018; and “ Updates to the Members’ and Committees’ Congressional Handbooks,” March 5, 2018.
44 For example: Dear Colleague letter from the Sergeant at Arms related to travel for the funeral of a deceased Member
of Congress, March 19, 2018; and Dear Colleague letter from the Committee on House Administration, “ 2018
Conference and Caucus Retreats,” January 8, 2018.
45 For example, Dear Colleague letters issued by the Committee on House Administration have included, “Using Your
MRA for District Office Security Assessments and Upgrades,” January 18, 2011; and, “ Automated Calls to Mobile
Devices,” July 26, 2016.
46 For example, Dear Colleague Letter from the CAO [Chief Administrative Officer] of the House, “Increased
T ransparency in Statement of Disbursements,” August 18, 2011; Dear Colleague Letter from the CAO of the House,
“Statement of Disbursements to Publish Merchant Information for Purchase Card T ransactions,” CAO of the House,
June 22, 2012; and Dear Colleague Letter from the CAO of the House, “ First Quarter 2019 Statement of
Disbursements,” May 28, 2019.
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Categories of Spending
House spending is categorized by the standard budget object classes used for the federal
government.47 These may include
 personnel compensation;
 travel;
 rent, communications, and utilities;
 printing and reproduction;
 other services;
 supplies and materials;48
 transportation of things; and
 equipment.
The disbursement volumes also contain a category for franked mail.
Certain costs are not included in the MRA and wil not be reflected in these totals. The c osts
include the salaries of Members49 and certain benefits—including any government contributions
toward health and life insurance and retirement—for both Members and staff. Additional y, the
range of items that may be covered by an office has changed over time.50 The MRA also does not
reflect spending by House officers and legislative branch agencies in support of Member offices.
Statements of Disbursements: Online Publication
and CSV Availability
The Statements of Disbursements are published as House documents and were historical y
available in bound volumes. Beginning with the disbursements for the quarter ending September
30, 2009, the Statements have been posted on the House of Representatives website, House.gov.51
Beginning with disbursements covering January-March 2016, this website provides SOD
information in a sortable CSV (comma-separated values) format.

47 T his classification system is based on U.S. Office of Management and Budget, OMB Circular A-11, 2019 edition,
https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/information-for-agencies/circulars/.
48 T his may include, for example: office supplies, bottled water, and publication/reference material.
49 Member pay is included in a permanent appropriation (P.L. 97-51; 95 Stat. 966; September 11, 1981).
50 For example, in a “ Dear Colleague” letter of April 20, 2009, the Committee on House Administration announced that
effective June 1, 2009, the transit benefit program would be administered centrally and available to all qualifying
House employees. Previously, Members could determine whether or not to provide the transit benefit to their
employees from the MRA, and those who offered this benefit would record the expenditure under the personnel
benefits category. For another example, certain security-related costs, including “ the cost of ... District Office security
upgrades, maintenance, and monthly monitoring fees,” is now supported by the House Sergeant at Arms ( “Dear
Colleague” letter of July 28, 2017, issued by House Sergeant at Arms Paul D. Irving).
51 T he Statements of Disbursements are available at https://www.house.gov/the-house-explained/open-government/
statement -of-disbursements.
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The MRA in Historical Practice: An Analysis of
Spending in Selected Years
This section examines the use of the MRA in practice in recent years.
Methodology
Disbursement information for each authorization year may appear in Statements for 12 quarters,
since, as discussed above, late-arriving bil s may be paid for up to two years following the end of
the MRA year (although unspent funds from one year cannot be obligated in any subsequent
year). For example, while Members could only obligate 2011 MRA expenditures from January 3,
2011, until January 2, 2012, late-arriving receipts could be paid through the quarter ending
December 31, 2013. While some bil s, particularly from outside vendors, may be settled up to
eight quarters after the end of the MRA year, the vast majority of bil ing occurs during the session
or in the quarter immediately following the close of the MRA year. Bil ing for some categories —
like personnel compensation—is almost entirely within the disbursements for the calendar year of
study.52 By examining volumes from subsequent quarters, in addition to those from the
authorization year, it is possible to provide a more complete picture of spending patterns.53
Analysis
Numerous characteristics of individual congressional districts or Member preferences can
influence spending priorities, which is reflected in the flexibility provided to Members in
establishing and running their offices.54 Despite some variations, the data, however, show a
relative consistency in the overal al ocation of MRA resources by category of spending both
across Members and over time.55
Table 3 provides a distributional analysis of office-level data for certain categories of spending,
while Figure 3 demonstrates aggregate House spending in these years.
The office-level and aggregate data indicate that personnel compensation is by far the largest
category of expense for Member offices, and it increased as a percentage of spending over this
time period. Spending on travel and “Rent, Communications, and Utilities” remained relatively
stable, while spending on franked mail decreased for the average and median Members and for
the House overal .
Table 4 shows spending as a proportion of the total individual authorization.

52 Since the MRA is available through January 2, but the Statements for the fourth quarter cover obligations through
December 31, personnel compensation for January 1 and January 2 in an MRA year will usually appear in the volume
for the subsequent calendar year (January 1-March 31), under a heading indicating that it is billed to the previous MRA
year.
53 For 2018 and 2019, preliminary data are provided.
54 T hese may include, for example: the cost -of-living in the districts from which Members are elected; actual
transportation costs to and from the district or around the district; geographical size of the district; number of people
living in the district; or other characteristics of a district that may influence spending patterns, including varying
expectations among constituent s for different levels or types of contact.
55 See also information on average expenditures for FY2013 provided for the record during the House Appropriations
Committee FY2015 hearings (U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on the Legislative
Branch, Legislative Branch Appropriations for 20 15, hearings, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., March 6, 2014 [Washington:
GPO, 2014], pp. 292-293).
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Table 3. Distribution of Office-Level Spending on Select Categories: 2009-2019
(percentage of total expenditure in the individual MRA)
Lower
Upper
Category of
Ave. %
Quartile
Median
Quartile
Expense
Year
Min %
(Mean)
Max %
(25th%)
(50th%)
(75th%)
2009
0
4
15
1
4
7
2010
0
4
16
2
4
6
2011
0
3
13
1
3
5
2012
0
3
14
1
2
5
Franked Mail
2013
0
2
14
0
1
3
2014
0
2
12
0
1
4
2015
0
2
16
0
1
4
2016
0
2
19
0
1
4
2017
0
2
12
0
1
3

2018
0
3
13
0
2
4

2019
0
2
12
0
1
3
2009
48
69
86
65
70
75
2010
53
71
88
65
71
76
2011
45
71
89
66
71
76
2012
54
75
91
71
75
80
Personnel
2013
56
75
88
70
76
79
Compensation
2014
56
76
88
72
77
80
2015
46
75
88
71
75
79
2016
47
77
90
73
77
81
2017
53
74
89
71
75
79

2018
53
77
90
72
77
82

2019
54
74
88
70
74
79
2009
0
4
11
3
4
6
2010
0
4
15
3
4
5
2011
0
4
11
3
4
6
2012
0
4
12
2
4
5
Travel
2013
0
4
13
3
4
5
2014
0
4
15
3
4
6
2015
0
4
15
3
4
6
2016
0
4
13
3
4
5
2017
0
4
14
3
4
5

2018
0
4
16
3
4
5

2019
0
4
15
3
4
5
2009
3
8
17
7
8
9
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Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Lower
Upper
Category of
Ave. %
Quartile
Median
Quartile
Expense
Year
Min %
(Mean)
Max %
(25th%)
(50th%)
(75th%)
Rent,
2010
3
8
17
6
7
9
Communications,
and Utilities
2011
3
8
17
7
8
10
2012
3
8
15
6
8
9
2013
3
8
18
7
8
10
2014
3
8
18
7
8
9
2015
2
8
19
7
8
10
2016
3
8
19
6
8
9
2017
3
8
20
7
8
10

2018
2
8
20
6
7
9

2019
2
9
21
7
8
10
Equipment
2009
0
2
11
1
1
2

2010
0
2
9
1
1
2

2011
0
2
7
1
1
2

2012
0
1
7
0
1
2

2013
0
1
10
0
1
1

2014
0
1
6
1
1
2

2015
0
1
7
0
1
2

2016
0
1
6
0
1
2

2017
0
1
9
1
1
2

2018
0
1
7
0
1
2

2019
0
1
7
1
1
2
Printing and
2009
0
5
23
1
4
7
Reproduction
2010
0
4
14
1
3
6

2011
0
4
15
1
3
6

2012
0
3
18
0
3
5

2013
0
3
16
0
2
4

2014
0
3
14
0
2
4

2015
0
3
23
0
2
4

2016
0
2
24
0
2
4

2017
0
3
17
0
2
4

2018
0
3
23
0
2
5

2019
0
3
22
0
2
5
Supplies and
2009
1
3
9
3
3
4
Materials
2010
0
3
11
2
3
4

2011
1
3
10
2
3
4

2012
0
3
10
1
2
3
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Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Lower
Upper
Category of
Ave. %
Quartile
Median
Quartile
Expense
Year
Min %
(Mean)
Max %
(25th%)
(50th%)
(75th%)

2013
0
2
8
1
2
3

2014
0
2
8
1
2
3

2015
0
2
7
1
2
3

2016
0
3
9
2
2
3

2017
0
2
9
1
2
3

2018
0
2
9
1
2
3

2019
0
2
6
1
2
3
Other Services
2009
1
4
11
3
4
5

2010
0
4
10
3
4
5

2011
2
5
13
4
5
6

2012
1
3
9
2
3
3

2013
2
4
9
3
4
6

2014
2
3
8
2
3
4

2015
1
4
8
3
4
5

2016
1
3
8
2
3
4

2017
1
4
9
3
4
6

2018
1
3
12
2
2
3

2019
2
5
11
3
4
6
Source: CRS calculations based on the Statement of Disbursements covering expenditures for 2009-2019. For
2018, nine quarters are available as of the date of this update. For 2019, five quarters are available as of the date
of this update. Preliminary data are provided.
Notes: Data exclude nonvoting Members, including the Delegates and Resident Commissioner. Members who
were not in Congress for the entirety of the MRA year were also excluded, since spending for any portion may
not be reflective of expenditures in an uninterrupted year. This limitation resulted in the fol owing number of
Members included in the data: for 2009, 429; 2010, 428; 2011, 430; 2012, 426; 2013, 428; 2014, 430; 2015, 431;
2016, 431; 2017, 426; 2018, 424; and 2019, 428.
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Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Figure 3. Expenditures by Category, as a Percentage of Aggregate MRA Spending

Source: CRS calculations based on the Statements of Disbursements.
Notes: This figure only represents spending supported by the MRA. For example, this figure does not include
government contributions for employee benefits (which are paid through another House account), Member
salaries, the cost of DC office space, and various services provided by House support offices or legislative branch
agencies. It also does not include categories of spending that occasional y appear in the Statements of
Disbursements
, but general y account for less than 0.00% of spending each year (e.g., “transportation of things”) .
Data exclude nonvoting Members, including the Delegates and Resident Commissioner. Members who were not
in Congress for the entirety of the MRA year were also excluded.
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Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Table 4. Spending as a Percentage of Authorization: 2009-2019
(based on Members who served the entire year)

Percent of Members
Percent Spent
Year <70% 70-75 75-80 80-85 85-90 90-95 95-99
>99%
Mean
Median
2009
0.5%
0.5%
1.4%
5.6%
13.8% 28.7% 35.4% 14.2%
93.7%
94.9%
2010
0.2%
0.7%
2.6%
4.9%
13.1% 20.1% 37.1% 21.3%
94.2%
96.0%
2011
0.7%
0.2%
1.9%
5.8%
12.8% 24.0% 34.7% 20.0%
94.0%
95.6%
2012
0.2%
0.7%
1.6%
3.1%
11.3% 21.6% 38.0% 23.5%
94.8%
96.8%
2013
0.2%
0.0%
0.7%
1.4%
4.4%
17.8% 40.9% 34.6%
96.5%
98.1%
2014
0.5%
0.2%
0.0%
3.5%
7.0%
21.4% 41.4% 26.0%
95.6%
97.2%
2015
0.5%
0.0%
0.2%
0.5%
5.6%
17.2% 45.7% 30.4%
96.5%
98.0%
2016
0.2%
0.0%
0.5%
3.2%
9.5%
18.1% 42.5% 26.0%
95.5%
97.2%
2017
0.5%
0.0%
1.2%
4.0%
9.4%
25.8% 43.4% 15.7%
94.7%
96.2%
2018
0.7%
0.5%
1.9%
4.7%
10.1% 22.4% 42.7% 17.0%
94.3%
96.3%
2019
0.0%
0.2%
0.7%
2.1%
6.5%
16.1% 59.1% 15.2%
96.0%
97.4%
Source: CRS calculations based on the Statement of Disbursements covering expenditures for 2009-2019. For
2018, nine quarters are available as of the date of this update. For 2019, five quarters are available as of the date
of this update. Preliminary data are provided.
Notes: Data exclude nonvoting Members, including the Delegates and Resident Commissioner. Members who
were not in Congress for the entirety of the MRA year were also excluded, since spending for any portion may
not be reflective of expenditures in an uninterrupted year. This limitation resulted in the fol owing number of
Members included in the data: for 2009, 429; 2010, 428; 2011, 430; 2012, 426; 2013, 428; 2014, 430; 2015, 431;
2016, 431; 2017, 426; 2018, 424; and 2019, 428.
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Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Appendix. Examples of Legislation Introduced
Affecting the MRA by Type

Table A-1. Examples of Legislation Introduced to Regulate, Prohibit, Authorize,
Disclose, or Encourage the Use of the MRA for a Particular Purpose
Legislation by Congress
116th Congress

H.Res. 530, Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the amount of the Members’
Representational Al owance should be increased in response to increasing threats against Members of the
House;

H.Res. 756, Moving Our Democracy and Congressional Operations Towards Modernization Resolution;

H.R. 7251, Proxy Vote Windfal Prohibition Act;

H.R. 1626, To prevent the enrichment of certain Government officers and employees or their families
through Federal funds or contracting, and for other purposes; and

H.R. 577, Prohibiting Perks and Privileges Act.
115th Congress

H.Res. 5, Adopting rules for the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress;

H.Res. 411, Adjusting the amount of the Members’ Representational Al owance;

H.Res. 642, Prohibiting the use of the Members’ Representational Al owance of a Member of the House of
Representatives to pay awards, settlements, or other compensation in connection with al egations of sexual
harassment or sexual misconduct by the Member or the employees of the Member’s office, and for other
purposes;

H.Res. 724, Requiring each employing office of the House of Representatives to adopt an anti-harassment and
anti-discrimination policy for the office's workplace, establishing the Office of Employee Advocacy to provide
legal assistance and consultation to employees of the House regarding procedures and proceedings under the
Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, and for other purposes;

H.R. 839, Public Service Spending Integrity Act;

H.R. 2951, To al ow Members of Congress to carry a concealed handgun anywhere in the United States, with
exceptions;

H.R. 4497, To amend the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to prohibit the use of public funds to pay
settlements and awards for workplace harassment and discrimination claims under the Congressional
Accountability Act of 1995 which arise from acts committed personal y by Members of Congress, and for
other purposes;

H.R. 4503, Empowering Victims of Sexual Misconduct Act;

H.R. 4674, Stop Taxpayers Obligations to Perpetrators of Sexual Harassment Act;

H.R. 4822, Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act;

H.R. 6640, Prohibiting Perks and Privileges Act;

H.R. 6711, House Intern Pay Act of 2018;

H.R. 6956, Intern Opportunity Act;

S. 2236, Congressional Harassment Reform Act; and

S. 2872, Congressional Accountability and Harassment Reform Act.
114th Congress
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Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Legislation by Congress

H.R. 5993, CAN Act;

H.R. 1381, Transparency in Government Act of 2015;

H.R. 3077, Giveback Deficit Reduction Act;

H.R. 3147, Constituent Services Disclosure Act of 2015;

H.R. 5166, WINGMAN Act; and

H.R. 5336, Taxpayer-Funded Travel Transparency Act of 2016.
113th Congress

H.Res. 558, Prohibiting the use of the Members’ Representational Al owance for the payment of the costs of
first-class airline accommodations;

H.Con.Res. 113, Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to require any Member whose
Members’ Representational Al owance is used to pay for a flight on a private aircraft to report information on
the flight not later than 30 days after the flight; and

H.Amdt. 642 to H.R. 4487, to prohibit the CAO of the House of Representatives from making any payments
from any Members’ Representational Al owance for the leasing of a vehicle, excluding mobile district offices
and short-term vehicle rentals.
112th Congress

H.R. 3774, Citizen Legislator Act of 2012;

H.Res. 135, Holding Congress Accountable Act of 2011;

H.Res. 482, Prohibiting the use of a Members’ representational al owance to obtain advertising on any
internet site other than an official site of the Member involved;

H.Res. 580, To prohibit the use of the Members’ Representational Al owance for air travel expenses of any
individual unless the individual provides an itemized description of the expenses, including the specific flight
number, and uses a credit card provided by the House of Representatives to pay for the expenses; and

H.Amdt. 709 to H.R. 2551, An amendment numbered 10 printed in H.Rept. 112-173 to require al mail
funded by the Members’ representational al owance and from funds for official mail for committees and
leadership offices of the House bear the official letterhead of the Member, committee, or office involved.
111th Congress

H.R. 5151, Congressional Oversight and Spending Transparency (COST) Act of 2010; and

H.Res. 1707, Holding Congress Accountable Resolution of 2010.
110th Congress

H.R. 5598, To establish a program under which employing offices of the House of Representatives may agree
to reimburse employees for child care expenses, and for other purposes;

H.Res. 1186, Prohibiting the use of funds in a Members’ Representational Al owance for the long-term lease
of a vehicle; and

H.R. 6, Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
109th Congress

H.Res. 879, Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Members of the House of
Representatives should use alternative fuel vehicles in their professional and personal lives; and

H.R. 5338, CLEAR Act.
108th Congress

H.R. 2106, To permit Members of the House of Representatives to use funds provided in Member’s
Representational Al owances to obtain POW/MIA flags and distribute them to constituents.
105th Congress
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link to page 27 Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Legislation by Congress

H.R. 1046, To al ow each Member of the House of Representatives to hire one additional employee, if the
employee is hired from the welfare rol s, and to provide that, if such employment is in the District of
Columbia, the jurisdiction represented by the Member may count the employment toward its welfare
participation rate requirement.
Source: CRS examination of LIS.
Table A-2. Examples of Legislation Introduced
Regarding the Use of Unexpended Balances
(not including regular appropriations provisions)
Congress
Bills
116th Congress
H.R. 1790; H.R. 1085
114th Congress
H.R. 3077
113th Congress
H.R. 106; H.R. 496
112th Congress
H.R. 121; H.R. 262; H.R. 297
111th Congress
H.R. 2656; H.R. 4825a
110th Congress
H.R. 272
109th Congress
H.R. 267; H.R. 1273
108th Congress
H.R. 297; H.R. 921; H.R. 2412
107th Congress
H.R. 47; H.R. 2414
106th Congress
H.R. 431; H.R. 2117; H.R. 2171
105th Congress
H.R. 80; H.R. 866
104th Congress
H.R. 26; H.R. 376; H.R. 572
Source: CRS examination of LIS.
Notes: Unless otherwise noted, bil s were introduced and referred to committee, but no further action was
taken.
a. H.R. 4825 was agreed to in the House on March 17, 2010. The bil was referred to the Senate Committee
on Rules and Administration and no further action was taken during the 111 th Congress.
Table A-3. Examples of Legislation Introduced to Limit the MRA
Legislation by Congress
112th Congress

H.Res. 22, Reducing the amount authorized for salaries and expenses of Member, committee, and leadership
offices in 2011 and 2012; and,

H.R. 1088, Reduction of Irresponsible MRA Growth Act.
111th Congress

H.R. 3189, Reduction of Irresponsible MRA Growth Act; and

H.R. 4761, Congressional Belt-Tightening Act of 2010.
Source: CRS examination of LIS.
Notes: Unless otherwise noted, legislation was introduced and referred to committee, but no further action
was taken.
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Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

a. H.Res. 22 (112th Congress) was agreed to in the House on January 6, 2011.


Author Information

Ida A. Brudnick

Specialist on the Congress


Acknowledgments
William T. Egar, Sarah J. Eckman, Lara E. Chausow, and Aaron Weinerman assisted in data collection for
various versions of this report. Amber Hope Wilhelm and Jamie Hutchinson assisted in the preparation of
the graphics.

Disclaimer
This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan
shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. It operates solely at the behest of and
under the direction of Congress. Information in a CRS Report should n ot be relied upon for purposes other
than public understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in
connection with CRS’s institutional role. CRS Reports, as a work of the United States Government, are not
subject to copyright protection in the United States. Any CRS Report may be reproduced and distributed in
its entirety without permission from CRS. However, as a CRS Report may include copyrighted images or
material from a third party, you may need to obtain the permission of the copyright holder if you wish to
copy or otherwise use copyrighted material.

Congressional Research Service
R40962 · VERSION 25 · UPDATED
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