Congressional per diems

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Congressional per diems

Post  Pez on Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:04 pm

k... this story was on AWB for a couple days before it appeared in the JG yesterday:

http://www.journalgazette.net/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100303/NEWS03/303039943

The rough gist... many members of congress (among them Hastings and Souder) receive a per diem for overseas travel. Congressional rules state clearly that unused money from this per diem should be returned. Souder, among others have been pocketing this money, or buying sourvenirs etc.

The purported biggest expense is a $200 painting that Mr. Souder bought while in Turkey with leftover money from his taxpayer funded per diem. Among other uses are for members of congress to book a cheaper hotel/flight such that they can bring their spouse along on the trip to whereever they happen to be going.

Souder defends the practice, stating that it will be too expensive to track individual receipts and get reimbursements, and also states that thought the congressional rules require otherwise, that has never been required in practice. All told, Souder states that he has likely spent $1000 in this way since 1996.

I'm extremely skeptical of the $1000 figure, I'm also extremely skeptical that a $200 item is the largest thing Souder has ever bought with his leftover per diem. Finally, I find Mr Souder's argument quite weak. No one is asking him to return receipts and get reimbursement, but rather we are asking him to obey congressional rules and return his leftover per diem, and, more generally, be a better steward of tax dollars.

Souder makes $174,000 a year, which probabaly equated to around $12,000 net a Month. I'm certain that such a salary will alllow someone the flexibility of buying their own souvenirs.

Who has other thoughts?

Pez
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Re: Congressional per diems

Post  Cincy Fan 44 on Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:29 pm

I think Souder has a point about per diem vs. expensing it...that it's cheaper in the long run to handle it per diem rather than expensing it.

I'm pretty sure Major and Minor League baseball has the same thing...players are given a set amount of spending money per day to cover the cost of food/cab rides/etc. that is on top of the salary they already make. Not sure if they have to return unused money to the team though.

Now, big leaguers obviously make a ton of money that they really don't need this, but those in the minors make next to nothing, and getting this meal money is a way to supplement their income.

And I'm sure that if it is indeed a "House Rule" that you have to return unused per diem money that Souder isn't the only one who may be breaking that rule, and that it's members on both sides of the aisle. It would be interesting to see a full list.

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Re: Congressional per diems

Post  Pez on Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:55 pm

Cincy Fan 44 wrote:I think Souder has a point about per diem vs. expensing it...that it's cheaper in the long run to handle it per diem rather than expensing it.

I'm pretty sure Major and Minor League baseball has the same thing...players are given a set amount of spending money per day to cover the cost of food/cab rides/etc. that is on top of the salary they already make. Not sure if they have to return unused money to the team though.

Now, big leaguers obviously make a ton of money that they really don't need this, but those in the minors make next to nothing, and getting this meal money is a way to supplement their income.

And I'm sure that if it is indeed a "House Rule" that you have to return unused per diem money that Souder isn't the only one who may be breaking that rule, and that it's members on both sides of the aisle. It would be interesting to see a full list.

I think souder is deflecting by bringing up the point about expenses and receipts. No one is asking him to do that, we are just asking him to return the taxpayer money he doesnt use. By bringing up the fact that is would be a Lot more expensive to scrap the current system and do something differently when no on seems to be suggesting that is not exactly honest.

I agree it would interesting to see a full list, I'm sure it is a very common practice among all legislators.

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Re: Congressional per diems

Post  Scooby01_98 on Thu Mar 04, 2010 6:30 pm

Maybe congress should follow the military's rules for travel, civilian government employees had there own travel rules but the two pretty much were the same and they all incorporated in the JTFR. Use the governments SATO offices (Schedule Airline Travel Office), it is just a government contracted travel agency. Although to be honest with you I could get cheaper rates going on the internet where I could choose which airline I wanted and be reimbursed with a receipt. Hotels we had to turn in the receipts with our travel claims, with a set top rate for the city you were in, meals and incidentals were set amounts no receipts needed and you could pocket that extra cash if you wanted.

So if you were on a week long trip, ate fast food for the week you could pick up a $200 painting and basically have the gov't pay for it using your meals and incidental money. Incidental money was a set amount under $10 a day (can't remember the exact amount)for dry cleaning, laundry, toothpaste, brush if you forgot those type of things.

Basically I am saying they should be treated like every other government employee and have to follow the same travel rules. Two receipts (airline and hotel) set rate for food and incidental.
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Re: Congressional per diems

Post  Markwes on Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:10 pm

Just another example of Congress being above the law. If I travel I have to account for all expenses, and that's exactly what I get reimbursed for. I don't get the whole idea that it's "more expensive than the per diem rate because of all the additional accounting involved". According to my math, he has averaged 2 trips per year. There's not a whole lot of complex accounting involved there.
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