Government travel reimbursement


Do taxpayers pay for congresspeople and senators’ flights to and from their home districts or is this built into their pay? Similarly, when the president flies on Air Force One to give a speech and then returns home, do taxpayers pay? Why couldn’t he set an example of frugality by teleconferencing?

— Anonymous

You can pretty much rest assured that government expenses are paid with tax dollars. To better illustrate the point, I’ll refer to the House of Representatives’ Statement of Disbursements, a riveting, 3000-page document that details the yearly expenditures of all 435 congressmen and women. It’s more Infinite Jest than 50 Shades of Grey, to say the least, and I can’t claim to make an exhaustive survey of its content. On the subject of travel, the explanatory glossary defines reimbursable travel as “by Members, staff and vendors in support of the official duties for Members of Congress, Committees, Leadership, House Officers and Offices of the House. Ordinary and necessary expenses associated with official travel are reimbursable. Official travel includes local travel and travel away from home overnight to conduct official and representational duties, when returning to the duty station or residence is impractical.”

By that logic, even taxi fares can (and are) billed to Congress. Plane trips back to the district? You bet! All of this is online at disbursements.house.gov for your reading pleasure.

As for frugality in the Oval Office, since Americans lampooned Carter for saying we should turn down the thermostats to save, suggesting “thrift” as a virtue isn’t a high priority for the chief executive.

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