Inside the Senate's Secret Handbook
300-plus pages of rules made public by 'USA Today'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2014 12:34 PM CDT
Updated Sep 20, 2014 11:30 AM CDT
The closed office of Sen. Roger Wicker is photographed at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 16, 2013.   (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

(Newser) – Illinois senators receive six times more sheets of blank paper—that would be about 11.6 million sheets to 1.87 million—than West Virginia senators do. The office paper quota is an actual rule put down in the US Senate Handbook, a 380-page tome that USA Today writes "has never been available to the public—until now." The newspaper obtained a copy that it has made accessible online (here), though it doesn't reveal how it got its hands on the book. It does note that the Rules Committee turned down its request for a copy, with a committee rep citing "sensitive security information." With that in mind, USA Today is publishing only 370 pages, omitting 10 that have to do with Senate security procedures.

Some of the details are seemingly trivial (among the things discussed: the availability of compact refrigerators and upholstery and masonry services), but of greater consequence are the rules about how senators are permitted to spend the $3 million to $4 million in taxpayer funds they're handed each year for office operations. Chartered boats are OK if such an expenditure would be "advantageous to the Senate"; spending on alcohol, movies, or flowers is not. The paper points out that because such rules were previously kept under wraps, "it's been impossible for the public to know whether a senator has violated the rules—for example by charging taxpayers for an improper charter flight."
 

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