Members’ Representational Allowance: History and Usage

Members of the House of Representatives have one consolidated allowance, the Members’ 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.

The appropriation for the MRA decreased from a high in FY2010 of $660.0 million to $554.7 million in FY2014, FY2015, and FY2016. The FY2017 House-passed bill (H.R. 5325) would have increased this level by $8.3 million, to $562.6 million (+1.5%). Although H.R. 5325 was not enacted, this level was provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-31), which was enacted on May 5, 2017. The House-passed version of the FY2018 bill (H.R. 3219) would continue the FY2017 level (-14.8% from the FY2010 peak level).

The reduction in the overall MRA appropriation from its FY2010 peak has corresponded with a reduction to the individual MRA authorization for each Member, which is available for expenses incurred from 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.

Information on individual office spending is published in the quarterly Statements of Disbursements of the House (SOD), which has been made available online since 2009 at http://disbursements.house.gov/. 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 non-voting 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 when considering all Members, many Members allocate their spending in a similar manner, and spending allocation patterns have remained relatively consistent over time.

Members' Representational Allowance: History and Usage

September 27, 2017 (R40962)
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Contents

Summary

Members of the House of Representatives have one consolidated allowance, the Members' 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.

The appropriation for the MRA decreased from a high in FY2010 of $660.0 million to $554.7 million in FY2014, FY2015, and FY2016. The FY2017 House-passed bill (H.R. 5325) would have increased this level by $8.3 million, to $562.6 million (+1.5%). Although H.R. 5325 was not enacted, this level was provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-31), which was enacted on May 5, 2017. The House-passed version of the FY2018 bill (H.R. 3219) would continue the FY2017 level (-14.8% from the FY2010 peak level).

The reduction in the overall MRA appropriation from its FY2010 peak has corresponded with a reduction to the individual MRA authorization for each Member, which is available for expenses incurred from 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.

Information on individual office spending is published in the quarterly Statements of Disbursements of the House (SOD), which has been made available online since 2009 at http://disbursements.house.gov/. 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 non-voting 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 when considering all Members, many Members allocate their spending in a similar manner, and spending allocation patterns have remained relatively consistent over time.


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 generally discuss financial accountability among elected officials, and it has been examined by watchdog organizations and interest groups covering congressional spending on internal operations generally. A few scholars have also examined how Members typically spend their office allowances, 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 Allowance (MRA), the allowance 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 resolution, 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 all voting Members who served for a defined period.6 Spending and practices across offices and across time vary, and an examination of additional Congresses would be required for a more complete picture of congressional office spending patterns.

Establishment of the MRA

The MRA, which was first authorized in 1996, was preceded by multiple allowances for each Member covering different categories of spending—including the former clerk hire allowance, official expenses allowances, and official mail allowance. The establishment of the MRA followed efforts by the House, dating back to the late 1970s, to move to a system of increased flexibility and accountability for Member office operations.7

In September 1995, the Committee on House Administration authorized the consolidation of these allowances.8 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 Allowances."9 According to the House Appropriations Committee report on the FY1996 bill, the consolidation was adopted to simplify Members' accounting practices and allowed Members to more easily show savings achieved when they did not spend all of their allowance.10 Subsequent legislation in 1996 further defined the MRA and made it subject to regulations and adjustments adopted by the Committee on House Administration.11 Additional provisions included in the FY2000 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act amended language regarding official mail and repealed obsolete language and terms.12

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.13

This provision was included in legislative branch appropriations bills 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);
  • 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 bills and resolutions addressing the MRA have been introduced (for examples, see tables in the Appendix). This legislation has generally fallen 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.
  • Bills or resolutions that would limit or change the growth of overall MRA or adjustment among Members.

MRA-related amendments have also been offered to the legislative branch appropriations bills. These include

  • H.Amdt. 213, which was offered to H.R. 3219, the FY2018 legislative branch appropriations bill, increasing funding for the Government Accountability Office, offset by a reduction in the Members' Representational Allowance, 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 Allowance 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.

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 all Members is provided under the appropriations heading, "Members' Representational Allowances," within the House account "Salaries and Expenses" contained in the annual legislative branch appropriations bills.

Allowance 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 allocated by the Committee on House Administration—the House has indicated that the total authorized level for all MRAs may be more than the total appropriation due to projections on spend-out rates. The FY1997 report accompanying the legislative branch appropriations bill, for example, 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 bill 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 appropriated would have to be increased by $27 million. Thus, the account is underfunded by almost 7%.14

A similar discussion of the use of prior spending patterns in the determination of MRA appropriations levels was included in numerous other House reports, particularly in the first few years of the MRA.15 It was also discussed during a hearing on the FY2009 legislative branch appropriations requests.16

Pursuant to law, late-arriving bills may be paid for up to two years following the end of the MRA year.17 The permissibility of payment for late-arriving bills does not provide flexibility in the timing of the obligation, a point emphasized in the Members' Congressional Handbook, which states: "all expenses incurred will be charged to the allowance available on the date the services were provided or the expenses were incurred" and the "MRA is not transferable between years."18

Fiscal Year Appropriations: Funding History

The MRA is funded in the House "Salaries and Expenses" account in the annual legislative branch appropriations bills. One single line-item provides funding for all Members' MRAs.

The MRA funding level peaked at $660.0 million in FY2010. It was subsequently reduced to $613.1 million in FY2011 (-7.1%), and then to $573.9 million 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 million 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 bill, 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 million, to $562.6 million (+1.5%), was agreed to. This level was included in the House-passed FY2017 bill (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.

The House-passed version of the FY2018 bill (H.R. 3219) would continue the FY2017 level (a decrease of 14.8% from the FY2010 level).

Figure 1 shows the appropriation for the overall MRA account for all Members from FY1996 through FY2017 in current and constant dollars. The FY2017 funding level is

  • approximately equivalent to the funding level provided when the account was established in FY1996, when adjusted for inflation;
  • approximately 1% above the $554.7 million provided in FY2007, not adjusted for inflation (-14% when adjusted for inflation); and
  • approximately 15% below the peak funding provided in FY2010 (-24% when adjusted for inflation).

Figure 1 also shows that the MRA is the largest category of appropriations within the House of Representatives, comprising an average of approximately 50% of House appropriations since FY1996.

Figure 1. MRA Funding: Current and Constant Dollars and Relationship to Overall Funding for the House of Representatives

(FY1996-FY2017)

Source: CRS calculations based upon annual legislative branch appropriations acts, including supplemental appropriations and rescissions. Constant dollars based on Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor). Base year = 1996.

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 allowance component is the same for each Member. The office expenses and mail allowances components vary from Member to Member. The office expense component includes a base amount; a mileage allowance, which is calculated based on the distance between a Member's district and Washington, DC; and an office space allowance, 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 non-business 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.19 Table 1 demonstrates the variation in authorization levels that resulted from this formula since 1996. Figure 2 presents this information graphically.

Table 1. Variation in Individual MRA Authorization Levels: 1996-2017

(current dollars)

Year

Minimum

Average
(Mean)

Maximum

Lower Quartile
(25th Percentile)

Median
(50th Percentile)

Upper Quartile
(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

Source: CRS calculations based on the Statements of Disbursements for 1996-2017 (in current dollars). The Member allowances are available from January 3 through January 2 of the following year.

Notes: The calculations exclude non-voting Members, including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner. Members elected by special election and sworn in during the quarter are also excluded since the allowance level may be prorated.

Figure 2. MRA Allowances by Member: Maximum, Minimum, and Mean

(current dollars, 1996-2017)

Source: CRS calculations based on the Statements of Disbursements including expenses for 1996-2017 (in current dollars). The Member allowances are available from January 3 through January 2 of the following year.

Notes: The calculations exclude non-voting 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 allowance 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 allowances 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 2012.20

113th Congress: Multiple Influences on Individual Authorized Levels

Individual authorization levels for 2013 (January 3, 2013-January 2, 2014), which were affected by both redistricting21 and sequestration,22 were reduced by a total of 8.2% according to the Statement of Disbursements.23 For legislative year 2014 (January 3, 2014-January 2, 2015), each Members' MRA increased by 1%.24

114th Congress

The FY2015 MRA appropriations level remained unchanged from FY2014, and Members' individual allowances were continued from legislative year 2014 to 2015.25

The FY2016 MRA appropriations level remained unchanged from FY2014 and FY2015, although Members' individual allowances for legislative year 2016 were increased by 1.0%.26

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."27 This resulted in an average increase of approximately $47,000.

A shooting on June 14, 2017, at a practice for the Congressional Baseball 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 bill (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 Allowance (MRA) by $25,000 per account this year for the purpose of providing Member security when away from the Capitol complex."28

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 bill (H.R. 3219)29 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 "will assume the cost of and oversee future District Office security upgrades, maintenance, and monthly monitoring fees."30 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.31 The MRA remains available for security measures necessitated by official duties as discussed in the letter and the Handbook.

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.32

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.33 Other letters have been issued regarding allowable franking and MRA expenses for the annual Congressional Art Competition or travel for a Member's funeral service, as well as reminders of prohibited expenses.34 The letters have explained the implication of new regulations, rulings or decisions on MRA spending.35 They also have summarized changes to the Statement of Disbursements.36

Categories of Spending

House spending is categorized by the standard budget object classes used for the federal government.37 These may include

  • personnel compensation;
  • personnel benefits;
  • travel;
  • rent, communications, and utilities;
  • printing and reproduction;
  • other services;
  • supplies and materials;38
  • transportation of things; and
  • equipment.

The disbursement volumes also contain a category for franked mail.

Certain costs are not included in the MRA and will not be reflected in these totals. The costs include the salaries of Members39 and certain benefits—including any government contributions toward health and life insurance and retirement—for both Members and staff. Additionally, the range of items that may be covered by an office, as well as staff pay ceilings, have changed over time.40 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 historically 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.41 Beginning with disbursements covering January-March 2016, this website provides SOD information in a sortable CSV (comma-separated values) format.

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 bills 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 bills, particularly from outside vendors, may be settled up to eight quarters after the end of the MRA year, the vast majority of billing occurs during the session or in the quarter immediately following the close of the MRA year. Billing for some categories—like personnel compensation—is almost entirely within the disbursements for the calendar year of study.42 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.43

Findings

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.44 Despite some variations, the data, however, show a relative consistency in the overall allocation of MRA resources by category of spending both across Members and over time.

Table 2 provides a distributional analysis of office-level data.

As with the figures on House-wide total Member office spending in Figure 3, the office-level data indicate that personnel compensation is by far the largest category of expense for Member offices. Spending on personnel as a percentage of total spending varied (as seen in the differences between the maximum and minimum percentages), but many offices clustered near the mean (i.e., the median and mean were close in all years).

Data on other categories of spending also demonstrate that, while variations exist across offices, similar patterns have developed across the House.45

Table 2. Distribution of Office-Level Spending in Recent Years

(percentage of total expenditure in the individual MRA on select categories of spending)

 

Year

Max %

Min %

Ave. % (Mean)

Lower Quartile (25th %)

Median (50th %)

Upper Quartile (75th %)

 

2011

13%

0%

3%

1%

3%

5%

 

2012

14%

0%

3%

1%

2%

5%

Franked Mail

2013

14%

0%

2%

0%

1%

3%

 

2014

12%

0%

2%

0%

1%

4%

 

2015

16%

0%

2%

0%

1%

4%

 

2011

89%

45%

71%

66%

71%

76%

 

2012

91%

54%

75%

71%

75%

80%

Personnel Compensation

2013

88%

56%

75%

70%

76%

80%

 

2014

88%

56%

76%

72%

77%

80%

 

2015

88%

46%

75%

71%

76%

79%

 

2011

11%

0%

4%

3%

4%

6%

 

2012

12%

0%

4%

2%

4%

5%

Travel

2013

13%

0%

4%

3%

4%

5%

 

2014

15%

0%

4%

3%

4%

6%

 

2015

15%

0%

4%

3%

4%

6%

 

2011

17%

3%

8%

7%

8%

10%

 

2012

15%

3%

8%

6%

8%

9%

Rent, Communications, & Utilities

2013

18%

0%

8%

7%

8%

10%

 

2014

18%

3%

8%

7%

8%

9%

 

2015

19%

2%

8%

7%

8%

10%

Source: CRS calculations based on the quarterly Statement of Disbursements covering expenditures for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Calculations for all years, except for 2015, are based on at least 11 quarters. For 2015, 7 quarters were examined. Preliminary data are provided.

Notes: Data exclude non-voting 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 data for 430 Members for 2011, 426 for 2012, 428 for 2013, 429 for 2014, and 431 for 2015.

Table 3 shows spending as a proportion of the total individual authorization.

Table 3. Distribution of Spending as a Percentage of Authorization in Recent Years

(percentage of Members)

 

<60%

60-65

65-70

70-75

75-80

80-85

85-90

90-95

>95

2011

0.0%

0.0%

0.7%

0.2%

2.1%

5.6%

12.8%

24.0%

54.7%

2012

0.0%

0.0%

0.2%

0.7%

1.6%

3.1%

11.3%

21.6%

61.5%

2013

0.0%

0.0%

0.2%

0.0%

0.7%

1.4%

4.4%

17.5%

75.7%

2014

0.0%

0.2%

0.2%

0.2%

0.0%

3.5%

7.0%

21.9%

66.9%

2015

0.0%

0.0%

0.5%

0.0%

0.2%

0.5%

6.5%

17.6%

74.7%

Source: CRS calculations based on the Statement of Disbursements covering expenditures for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Calculations for all years, except for 2015, are based on at least 11 quarters. For 2015, 7 quarters were examined. Preliminary data are provided.

Notes: Data exclude non-voting 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 data for 430 Members for 2011, 426 Members for 2012, 428 for 2013, 429 for 2014, and 431 for 2015. Percentages may not equal 100% due to rounding.

Figure 3 demonstrates aggregate House spending in these years. As with the data on office-level spending in Table 2, the aggregate data indicate that personnel compensation is the largest category of MRA-related expenses.

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), the cost of DC office space, and various services provided by other House administrative offices. The "Equipment" and "transportation of things" categories were combined due to their size—the latter represents less than 0.00% of spending.

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

115th Congress

  • H.Res. 5, Adopting rules for the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress.
  • H.Res. 411.
  • H.R. 2951, To allow Members of Congress to carry a concealed handgun anywhere in the United States, with exceptions.

114th Congress

113th Congress

  • H.Res. 558, Prohibiting the use of the Members' Representational Allowance 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 Allowance 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 Allowance 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 allowance 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 Allowance 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 all mail funded by the Members' representational allowance 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 Allowance 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 Allowances to obtain POW/MIA flags and distribute them to constituents.

105th Congress

  • H.R. 1046, To allow each Member of the House of Representatives to hire one additional employee, if the employee is hired from the welfare rolls, 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

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, bills were introduced and referred to committee, but no further action was taken.

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;a 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.

Author Contact Information

[author name scrubbed], Specialist on the Congress ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Acknowledgments

[author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and Aaron Weinerman assisted in data collection and the preparation of this report. Susan Smelcer, [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and Amber Wilhelm assisted in the preparation of the figures.

Footnotes

1.

Burdett Loomis and Wendy Schiller, The Contemporary Congress, 5th ed. (Belmont, CA: Thompson-Wadsworth, 2006), Ch. 7-8; Richard F. Fenno, Jr., Congressmen in Committees (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 106th 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 Their 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 [author name scrubbed].

3.

Available at http://cha.house.gov/handbooks/members-congressional-handbook.

4.

Available at http://cha.house.gov/franking-commission/franking-manual.

5.

Available at http://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 status or tenure of the Member. Non-voting 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 allocations for an uninterrupted year. Similarly, Members who were not sworn in at the beginning of the 109th Congress or did not remain until the end of the second session were not included in the analysis of 2006. This limitation resulted in data for 431 Members for 2005, 426 Members for 2006, 427 for 2007, for 430 2011, and 426 for 2012.

7.

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.

8.

Committee Order No. 41, effective September 1, 1995.

9.

P.L. 104-53, 109 Stat. 519 (November 19, 1995).

10.

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.

11.

P.L. 104-186, 110 Stat. 1719 (Aug. 20, 1996); 2 U.S.C. 5341.

12.

P.L. 106-57, 113 Stat. 415 (September 29, 1999).

13.

The 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 Treasury 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 Treasury considers appropriate)." Annual legislative branch appropriations bills with this language include P.L. 104-53 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, and P.L. 114-113. The 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.

14.

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.

15.

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 Appropriations, 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.

16.

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.

17.

The 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.). This is discussed in the Principles of Federal Appropriations Law. This 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, Third Edition, vol. I, January 2004, http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/3rdEditionVol1.pdf, page 5-76 – 5-77. Chapter 5 ("Availability of Appropriations: Time") 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 Treasury operations and the treatment of closed appropriations: "We commonly talk about "returning" appropriation balances to the Treasury. In point of fact, for the most part, they never leave the Treasury to begin with. An appropriation does not represent cash actually set aside in the Treasury. Government obligations are liquidated as needed through revenues and borrowing. Thus, the reversion of funds to the Treasury is not a movement of actual cash, but a bookkeeping adjustment that in the various ways discussed in the text, affects the government's legal authority to incur obligations and make expenditures."

18.

The Members' Handbook. Available at http://cha.house.gov/handbooks/members-congressional-handbook.

19.

For the 2016 formula, see 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 Congress, 2nd session (Washington: GPO, 2016), p. 2861.

20.

The Statement contains the following: "The total amount of each Member's 2012 Representational Allowance is 88.92% of the amount authorized in 2010. This 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 reflected in H.R. 2055, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74)." U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements 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.

21.

The individual authorizations correspond to the legislative year (January 3-January 2), while appropriations correspond to the fiscal year (beginning October 1). The 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 non-business addresses—account for district characteristics, the individual MRA may vary following redistricting.

22.

Pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25), as amended by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (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 http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/2013sequestration-order-rel.pdf).

23.

The 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 amount was reduced on March 4, 2013, by 8.2% to comply with sequestration orders issued pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011." U.S. Congress, House, Statement of Disbursements 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.

24.

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 Congress, 2nd session (Washington: GPO, 2014), p. 2559.

25.

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 Congress, 1st session (Washington: GPO, 2015), p. 2854.

26.

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 Congress, 2nd session (Washington: GPO, 2016), p. 2861. For information on the relationship between the appropriations and allocations, see the section on "Appropriations and Allocations: Timing Differences with the Overall Fiscal Year Appropriation and Individual Member Calendar Year Authorization."

27.

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.

28.

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 Members' Congressional Handbook, https://cha.house.gov/handbooks/members-congressional-handbook#Members-Handbook-Office-Expenses-DO-Security.

29.

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. The text of the legislative branch bill, as agreed to in H.R. 3219, was unchanged. H.R. 3354, which then includes text for all 12 appropriations bills, was agreed to in the House on September 14, 2017.

30.

Available to House offices at https://e-dearcolleague.house.gov/.

31.

The updated Handbooks is available at https://cha.house.gov/handbooks/members-congressional-handbook.

32.

The Members' Handbook is available at http://cha.house.gov/member-services/handbooks.

33.

For example, recent Dear Colleague letters issued by the Committee on House Administration have included "End-of-Year Expenses: Policies and Best Practices," December 9, 2016; "Committee Regulation Modernization," April 5, 2016; "Offices Have Until March 31st to Use Obligated Funds From 2015," March 30, 2016; "Use of MRA due to Inclement Weather," January 26, 2016; "End-of-Year Expenses," December 11, 2015; and "Updated Members Congressional Handbook Effective October 21, 2015," October 21, 2015.

34.

For example: Dear Colleague Letter from Representative Joe Wilson, "Announcing the 2016 Congressional Art Competition," January 20, 2016; Dear Colleague letters from the Sergeant at Arms related to travel for the funerals of deceased Members of Congress, August 3, 2016, and February 6, 2015; and Dear Colleague Letter from the Committee on House Administration, "2016 Conference and Caucus Retreats," January 6, 2016.

35.

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.

36.

For example, Dear Colleague Letter from Dan Strodel, CAO of the House, "Increased Transparency in Statement of Disbursements," August 18, 2011; Dear Colleague Letter from Dan Strodel, "Statement of Disbursements to Publish Merchant Information for Purchase Card Transactions," CAO of the House, June 22, 2012; and Dear Colleague Letter from Will Plaster, CAO of the House, "First Quarter 2016 Statement of Disbursements," May 20, 2016.

37.

This classification system is derived from U.S. Office of Management and Budget, OMB Circular A-11, 2009 edition, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/Circulars_a11_current_year_a11_toc/.

38.

This may include, for example: office supplies, bottled water, and publication/reference material.

39.

Member pay is included in a permanent appropriation (P.L. 97-51; 95 Stat. 966; September 11, 1981).

40.

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.

41.

The Statements of Disbursements are available at http://disbursements.house.gov/.

42.

Since the MRA is available through January 2, but the Statements for the fourth quarter run 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.

43.

Calculations all years, except for 2015, are based on at least 11 quarters. For 2015, 7 quarters are available as of the date of this update. Preliminary data is provided.

44.

These 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 constituents for different levels or types of contact.

45.

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 2015, hearings, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., March 6, 2014 (Washington: GPO, 2014), pp. 292-293).