Diary

Economic Crisis Forces Congress to Spend More on Itself

Roll Call with the story:

According to several Congressional sources, the House Administration Committee has alerted Members that their office accounts will increase by an average of $90,000 this year, an overall increase of about $40 million and significantly more that the increases of recent years.

Every year, each House Member is provided a Member Representational Allowance, which pays for staff salaries, mailing costs, office supplies and the other miscellaneous costs of running a Congressional office. The amount allotted to each Member varies based on how far they have to travel to and from their district and other factors, but in 2008, the allowances ranged from $1.3 million to $1.6 million for each office, according to the Congressional Research Service.

In recent years, the MRAs have increased each year by about $25,000-$30,000 per office, several sources said, making this year’s increase remarkable.

“As a result of the current economic crisis, more pressure than ever is being placed on Member’s district offices to ensure that they have the necessary resources as they work to address expanded constituent needs,” Kyle Anderson, spokesman for the House Administration Committee Democrats, said in an e-mail to Roll Call. “Additionally, unprecedented increases in travel expenses, district office utilities and other related operational expenses must be incorporated into Member’s Representational Allowances.

In an ordinary year, the average budget increase for each Congressional office has been between 2% and 2.5% annually. Now Congress is leading us into an era of unprecedented budget deficits, Congressional budgets are increasing by about 7%. Nice.

If Congressional offices are jacking up salaries to ensure that they can respond to an increasing level of contacts, let’s not disappoint them. Put the number of your Representative on speed dial, and feel free to call up whenever you have a concern — no matter how small. Angry about federal funding for snow making? Call your Representative. Trying to find the conservative sanctuary during inauguration? Call your Rep. Want to tell Congress what you think about them passing a tax hike in the first week? Call your Rep.

And if you feel like you need more reasons to call your Representative, sign up for the Red State Army. We’ll give you plenty to take action on.