UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

June 11, 2009

CONGRESS EVEN HAS WEIRD RULES FOR ITSELF

Erika Lovley, Politico - The complexities of House and Senate procedure are legendary, but the floor isn't the only place at the Capitol where the rules can be a little baffling. Capitol Hill is rife with restrictions - some written, some just universally accepted and some that don't make much sense at all. . .

A book could be written on what staffers can and can't eat at fundraisers - toothpicks, anyone? - but here are some of the other rules that drive staffers to drink:

Thou shalt not buy Kleenex When the swine flu panic hit Washington in April, Congress scrambled to respond, taking special precautions to ensure members didn't become infected.. . . Individual Senate offices couldn't use official funds to buy antibacterial wipes without a special interpretation of spending rules from the Senate rules committee. By the time the ruling came down, a lot of nearby stores were sold out of Lysol, and offices still aren't cleared to purchase other key flu-fighting tools with office funds, according to Senate staffers. "We are still not allowed to buy Kleenexes," said one Senate staffer. . .

Thou shalt not drink on the floor. Coffee and food aren't allowed on the Senate floor; there aren't supposed to be any BlackBerrys, either. But since 1966, senators have been allowed to drink milk as they deliver their speeches. . .

Thou shalt not divulge e-mail addresses This one varies by office. While some offices will give callers e-mail addresses for staffers - especially press secretaries - some flat-out refuse, and others give not-so-subtle hints. . .

Thou shalt not accept a ring in haste Odd regulations can affect private life off the Hill - even staffer engagements. "The first ethics briefing I went to, they actually said to be sure to say yes when someone asks to marry you before you accept the ring. Then [your fiance] is family, and you won't have to worry about getting approval to accept a gift over $250," said one House staffer. . .

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