In case you missed it, the formerly secret “employee handbook” of the US Senate has been obtained and published by USA Today. Odd, isn’t it, that while the House of Representatives rulebook has always been public, the Senate’s has been a closely guarded secret. If you’re wondering what they’ve been hiding, and whether your senator or any senator has been “playing by the rules,” you can now read the 380-page “compilation of the policies and regulations governing office administration, equipment and services, security and financial management” for yourself:
USA Today noted that some pages relating to national security were redacted (10 pages regarding law enforcement operations and bomb threats), but that otherwise the above is complete. You can still read all the regs regarding ID cards, potted plants, flags in the hallway, office assignments (seniority!), paper allotments and, of course, travel expenses.
For example, reporters are not allowed to read newspapers in the senate chamber. I wonder if that means paper and electronic versions? I’m guessing the rule was for appearance’s sake on television, or perhaps so as not to appear rude or disinterested while the senators were conducting business. But with all newspapers now available on mobile devices, I’m guessing rule violations go unnoticed.
And about that paper allocation:
“Each Senator receives annual paper allowances for blank paper, letterhead paper and envelopes” based on population with a formula of “one and one-third sheets of blank paper per adult constituent.” Thus the Illinois senators each receive 11,605,333 sheets of blank paper; the West Virginia senators receive only 1,874,667.
Other rules noted by the Washington Post:
The architect of the Capitol can provide a compact refrigerator for a senator’s office and a piano for events.
When the Senate is in session, music is prohibited in the Senate wing of the Capitol. However, music is allowed after 5 p.m. while the Senate is in recess. If you want to sing in Senate spaces, you must obtain a waiver.
Former senators are still allowed to use Senate dining rooms — on a limited basis. You are also allowed to get haircuts at the Senate hair salon.
If you want to put a U.S. flag or your state flag outside your office, the Senate Stationary Office can get those for you. But you have to bring the flags into your office every night.
The U.S. Botanical Garden has a loaning library of plants for Senate offices. But you can only borrow three at a time, and only six total during an entire year.
The Office of Printing Services keeps a running tally of how many sheets of blank paper Senate offices have used.
Senators are allotted a total of 50 picture frames every year. This number includes a maximum of 20 gold picture frames.
The rules explicitly prohibit senators from using appropriated funds for holiday cards.
As for the rules on travel expenses, well, if you’ve ever had to itemize travel expenses for an employer, you know how that works …
But hey, isn’t it refreshing to know our senators actually have some rules governing their behavior?