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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Members' Representational Allowance: History and Usage - R40962


Ida A. Brudnick
Specialist on the Congress

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. Since FY2010, the appropriation for the MRA has decreased by $116.1 million (17.6%). This reduction has coincided with reductions to the individual MRA for each Member, which is available for expenses incurred from January 3 of each year through January 2 of the following year. In the 112
th 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.

Information on individual office spending is published in the quarterly Statements of Disbursement of the House. Following increased interest in the MRA, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in June 2009 directed the then-Chief Administrative Officer to make future statements available on the website of the House of Representatives. The initial release contained information on spending for the quarter ending September 30, 2009. Subsequent Statements are available at http://disbursements.house.gov/.

In addition to recurring administrative provisions in the annual appropriations acts requiring 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 balance, 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 over three years—2005, 2006, and 2007. The data exclude non-voting Members, including Delegates and the Resident Commissioner. Members who were not in Congress for all of the first session of a Congress, whether the Member left Congress prior to the end of the year or entered any time after the beginning of the session, were also excluded. Similarly, Members who were not sworn in at the beginning of the Congress or did not remain until the end of the second session were not included in the analysis of the second session. This limitation resulted in data analyzing 431 Members for 2005, 426 for 2006, and 427 for 2007. Information is provided on total spending and spending for various categories, including personnel compensation; personnel benefits; travel; rent, utilities, and communications; printing and reproduction; other services; supplies and materials; transportation of things; equipment; and franked mail. The data collected demonstrate that, despite variations when considering all Members, many Members allocate their spending in a similar manner.

Date of Report: November 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R40962
Price: $29.95


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