The $174,000 that members of Congress are paid each year is just a small part of what it costs to keep them in Washington, D.C. Senators spend double what House members spend because they cover the whole state.
Little attention is paid as to how much they spend each year to run their offices, according to a report in The Advocate, but Louisiana’s delegation spent less than most members in 2018. Average expenses for each House member in 2018 were about $1.36 million. The Senate average is $3.3 million.
Costs vary because they are based on each member’s distance from Washington, local office space and how many constituents they serve. Most of the money is spent on staff salaries. None of it can go to personal or campaign expenses, and lawmakers have to cover their own expenses personally if they go over the amount they are given.
For comparative purposes, the highest House average of $1.36 million in 2018 was more than the nearly $1 million in 2000, but less than the $1.5 million high in 2010.
U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre, who represents this area that is in the 3rd Congressional District, spent $1.2 million in 2018, less than the state’s five other House members. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, who is running for governor, spent the most at $1.336 million.
The Advocate said Higgins’ costs were lower because he paid his staff the least, totaling $933,655. U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, paid his staff the most at $1.4 million.
U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, and the state’s longest serving member of the delegation, spent more than $2 million. Scalise had a separate budget because of the leadership role he had when Republicans controlled the House.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, spent $3.1 million, and about $140,000 of that was for travel. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, spent nearly $2.8 million on office expenses in 2018, and nearly $200,000 of that was for travel.
One of the perks is called a franking privilege, the ability of members of Congress to freely send mail back home, which can boost their re-election hopes. However, the mail can’t directly request a vote or political support.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, accumulated nearly $64,800 in franked mail charges in 2018. The newspaper said nearly half of that was in the third quarter leading up to the 2018 midterm elections.
The total cost of running Congress has to be enormous, and taxpayers should be getting much more for the money it’s costing them.