Order Code RS22034
Updated May 25, 2006
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
House Ethics Rules Changes
in the 109th Congress
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
On February 1, 2006, the House of Representatives adopted H.Res. 648 revoking
floor and gymnasium privileges for former Members and officers who are lobbyists. On
January 4, 2005, the House adopted H.Res. 5, its rules for the 109th Congress that
included amendments to the chamber’s rules of conduct and the procedures of the
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.1 Subsequently, on April 27, 2005, the
House amended the rules adopted in January 2005 that affected the ethics process.2 The
H.Res. 5 ethics changes that remain provide for limited use of campaign funds for
official expenses, an increase in the time limit for sending franked mass mailings before
elections, and an expansion of the rule governing companions on officially connected
travel. In addition, prior to the opening of the 109th Congress, the House Democratic
Caucus and the Republican Conference changed their ethics rules governing party
leaders. This report will be updated as needed.
Following a well-established practice, the House, when it convened on January 4,
2005, adopted its rules for the 109th Congress.3 H.Res. 5 provided for the rules of the
“Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 151, Jan. 4, 2005, pp. H7-H31.
“Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to Reinstate Certain Provisions of the
Rules Relating to Procedures of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to the Form In
Which Those Provisions Existed at the Close of the 108th Congress,” Congressional Record,
daily edition, vol. 151, Apr. 27, 2005, pp. H26216-H26226.
H.Res. 5 also changed the rules affecting floor proceedings and the committee system in the
House. These changes, which include making the Committee on Homeland Security a standing
committee, eliminating the Corrections Calendar process, and provisions for the continuity of
legislative operations in the event of a catastrophic occurrence, are described in CRS Report
RS22021, House Rules Changes Affecting the Congressional Budget Process in the 109th
Congress (H.Res. 5), by Bill Heniff Jr.; CRS Report RL32772, House Rules Changes Affecting
Floor Procedures in the 109th Congress, by Thomas Carr and Elizabeth Rybicki; and CRS Report
RS22018, Committee System Rules Changes in the House, 109th.Congress, by Judy Schneider.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
House in the previous Congress to be the rules of the new Congress, with amendments.
In addition, on February 1, 2006, the House adopted a resolution banning former
Members and officers, who become lobbyists, from the House floor and gymnasium
This report briefly discusses the changes involving lobbyists as well as the
substantive changes in the rules governing unofficial office accounts and the use of excess
campaign funds, franked mass mailings prior to an election in which a Member is a
candidate, and individuals allowed to accompany a Member, officer, or employee on
officially connected travel. Procedural changes in the Committee on Standards of Official
Conduct (Ethics Committee) and changes in the rules of the Democratic Caucus and the
Republican Conference are also described in this report.
Privileges of Former Members and Officers Who Become Lobbyists.
As part of an overall effort to examine the rules governing the relationship of lobbyists
to Members of Congress, the House adopted H.Res. 648 on February 1, 2006.4 The
measure expanded Rule IV, clause 4, to ban from the floor of the House and the rooms
leading to it all former Members and officers who are registered lobbyists or the agent of
a foreign principal.5 Previously banned were those former Members and officers who had
aa direct personal or pecuniary interest in pending legislation or who represented any
party with such an interest in pending legislation . H.Res. 648 also banned from the House
exercise facilities all former Members and officers, as well as their spouses, who are
registered lobbyists or the agent of a foreign principal.
Limited Use of Excess Campaign Funds. With the adoption of H.Res. 5,
Representatives, like Senators, may use excess campaign funds to purchase “hand held
communication devices” such as BlackBerry® wireless devices and cell phones. Since
1977, House Rule XXIV has prohibited Members of the House from maintaining an
unofficial office account or using leftover campaign funds to help defray the expenses of
office.6 This rule was codified into law in 1991 in the FY1992 Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act (2 USC, Sec. 59e(d)). Subsequently, the FY2004 Legislative Branch
Appropriations Act (Section 105, P.L. 108-83), amended the 1991 Act to permit the
Members to defray certain official expenses with funds from their principal campaign
committee. H.Res. 5 now conforms the House rule to current law (P.L. 108-83), which
provides that funds may not be used for mail or other communications, compensation for
services, office space, furniture or equipment, and information technology services
(excluding hand held communication devices).
H.Res. 5 also made other technical, conforming, and grammatical changes to the House Rules.
“Eliminating Floor Privileges of Former Members and Officers,” Congressional Record, daily
edition, vol. 151, Feb. 1, 2006, pp. H29-H37, H67-H68.
See also CRS Report RL33237, Congressional Gifts and Travel Proposals in the 109th
Congress, by Mildred Amer; CRS Report RL33326, Lobbying, Ethics, and Related Procedural
Reform: Comparison of Current Provisions of S. 2359 and H.R. 4975, by Eric Peterson.
House Rule XXIV defines an unofficial office account as an account or repository in which
funds are received for the purpose of defraying otherwise unreimbursed expenses for the
operation of a congressional office.
Franked Mass Mailings Before An Election. H.Res. 5 amends House Rule
XXIV, clause 8, to prohibit franked mass mailings postmarked less than 90 days before
a primary or general election in which a Member is a candidate.7 This change makes the
rule compatible with the provisions of 39 U.S.C., Sec. 3210 by replacing the current 60day pre-election moratorium.
Companions on Officially Connected Travel. H.Res. 5 amends House Rule
XXV, clause 5(b)(4)(D) to allow any one relative, at the sponsor’s expense, to accompany
Members, officers, and employees, on privately funded, officially connected trips.
Previously, the rule allowed only a spouse or child to accompany a Member or staffer on
such a trip.
Caucus Rules on Indicted Leaders. In November 2004, the House Republican
Conference voted to abolish its rule requiring the removal of a leader indicted on felony
charges for which a sentence of two or more years may be imposed. Under the revised,
November 2004 Conference rule, an indicted House leader could keep his or her post
while the Republican Steering Committee decided whether to recommend action by all
members of the conference.8 Subsequently, on January 3, 2005, the Republican
Conference reinstated the original rule (which existed prior to November 2004) requiring
the automatic removal of a leader indicted for a felony for which a sentence of two or
more years may be imposed.9 In addition to the provision requiring the removal of an
indicted leader, Republican Conference rules also provide for the temporary replacement
of the chair of any committee or subcommittee who is indicted for a felony for which a
sentence of two or more years may be imposed and their removal if convicted of a felony
or censured by the House.
On January 3, 2005, the House Democratic Caucus voted to remove party leaders
indicted or convicted on felony charges for which a sentence of two or more years may
be imposed.10 This action supplements Democratic Caucus rules for the temporary
replacement of a committee or subcommittee chair or ranking member indicted for a
felony for which a sentence of two or more years may be imposed and the removal of
committee or subcommittee chair or ranking member convicted of a felony or censured
by the House.
Mass mailings are newsletters or other pieces of substantially identical mail totaling more than
500 pieces in a particular session of Congress, other than mail in response to communications
from someone to whom the mail is sent, mailings to government officials, or new releases to the
Washington Post, Nov. 18, 2004, p. A4, and New York Times, Nov. 18, 2004, pp. A1, A20.
Susan Ferrechio, “House Reverses Course on Ethics Standards,” CQ Today, Jan. 4, 2005, pp.
1, 4, and New York Times, Jan. 5, 2005, pp. A1, A21.
“House Democrats Plan to Change Rule on Leadership Indictments,” National Journal’s
Congress Daily, Dec. 10, 2004, p. 3, and conversation with the staff of Rep. Robert Menendez,
chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Jan. 10, 2005.
House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Operating
Procedures. The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct was established
in 1967 to enforce the House rules of conduct.11 H.Res. 168 (105th Congress) amended
the internal operations of the committee in 1997.12 Included in the rules for the 109th
Congress (H.Res. 5) adopted on January 4, 2005, were further amendments to the
committee’s rules of procedure, including a rule relating to the conduct of a Member,
officer, or employee whose conduct might be referenced in a committee investigation of
someone else. However, this change was dropped on April 27, 2005, when the House
deleted all the other changes to the rules of procedure of the Committee on Standards of
Official Conduct that had been adopted in January 2005 as part of H.Res. 513.
The April 2005 amendments also restored the Ethics Committee rule that inaction
by the chairman or ranking member on a properly filed complaint within 45 days
automatically sent the complaint to an investigative subcommittee.
See CRS Report 98-15, House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct: A Brief History
of Its Evolution and Jurisdiction, by Mildred Amer.
“Implementing the Recommendations of the Bipartisan House Ethics Task Force,”
Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 143, Sept. 18, 1997, pp. H7544-H7573.
“Amending the Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 151, Apr. 27,
2005, pp. H2616-H2626; and Carl Hulse, “House Overturns New Ethics Rule as G.O.P. Relents,”
New York Times, Apr. 28, 2005, pp. A1, A21.