Congress travels on your money and keeps the change

When members of congress travel, they get a per diem of up to $250 per day to cover expenses like meals and incidentals. This is not out of the ordinary as many companies also do it. The problem is that, while congressional rules stipulate that the unused per diem must be returned, the vast majority of members keep the change. This amounts to yet another “perk” for congress. (more here)

According to interviews with 20 current and former members of Congress, lawmakers use the excess cash for shopping or to defray spouses’ travel expenses. Sometimes they give it away; sometimes they pocket it. Many lawmakers said they didn’t know the rules demand repayment.

“If that was the policy, you could never get many members traveling,” said Rep. Solomon Ortiz, a Texas Democrat. Mr. Ortiz said he had never returned any money.

“There’s a tacit understanding that if lawmakers don’t spend the money, they get to keep it,” said Rep. Sue Kelly, a New York Republican who was defeated in 2006.

Former Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, said lawmakers often used leftover money “for shopping or to buy souvenirs to bring back to constituents. That’s fairly standard.”

Yet another stellar example of our Imperial congress.

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