Haircuts, flights, and an alumni club: here are the perks members of Congress get that the general public doesn’t

  • The 116th US Congress has been sworn in, marking the most diverse Congress in US history.
  • Though this group of lawmakers represents a number of firsts for the legislative branch, members of Congress have been bound by many of the same traditions throughout history, including a wide variety of perks.
  • Members of Congress can pull rank to receive priority for haircuts, flights, and even mail. See the perks lawmakers enjoy, some of which continue even after they have left office.

The 116th US Congress was sworn in earlier this week, marking the most diverse group to occupy the legislative branch in US history.

Despite the record number of firsts represented by the newest group of lawmakers, members of Congress have followed many of the same traditions during their time in office, including a variety of perks and benefits.

See the perks that come with being a top lawmaker, some of which last long after their time in Congress is over:

The salary-based benefits in place for a member of Congress are superior to the average American workplace.

The Federal Employees Retirement Program provides individual pension plans to members of Congress. Depending on the member’s age, salary, and number of years in service, the pension benefit can be up to 80% the member’s final salary.

Source: US Senate, Investopedia

Based on 2017 Congressional pay of $US174,000 per year, an 80% pension grants members a lifelong pension benefit of $US139,200. This places members ahead of a majority of Americans, for whom the 2017 median household income was $US61,372.

Source: Investopedia, US Census Bureau

If a member of Congress dies while in office, their family will receive a payout of $US174,000, or a year’s salary. By comparison, families of military personnel killed in action receive $US100,000.

Source: Congressional Institute

A Members’ Representational Allowance provides each member with money for official expenses including personnel, officials mailings, and office furnishings. In 2017, the allowance granted each member $US944,671.

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell poses for photographers during a photo-op prior to a meeting in McConnell’s Capitol Hill office.

Source: US Senate

For 90 days after they leave office, members have access to “franking” mail, or sending official mail to their constituents.

Source: Roll Call

Congressional benefits follow members off Capitol Hill as well, including free, reserved parking spots at Washington DC-area airports.

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesDulles Airport, one of the Washington, DC’s area airports in Herndon, Virginia.

Source: Department of State

Members of Congress are able to reserve seats on multiple flights but only pay for the flight they take. Major airlines also have a dedicated Congressional call desk to sort out any issues.

Source: Bloomberg

The Senate Hair Care Services has been in operation since the early 19th Century, providing a variety of grooming services including haircuts and manicures. Though it’s open to the public, key lawmakers get appointment priority, even over newer members.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty ImagesThe barber shop in the US Senate at the US Capitol.

Source: The New York Times

Members of Congress can also enjoy a number of lifetime perks after they retire.

Afte retirement, former members have the option to obtain alumni identification and join the US Association of Former Members of Congress to remain close to their former colleagues.

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesThe hallway that leads to the House of the US Capitol.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Former members can still enjoy on-site amenities including the House and Senate dining rooms and the gym, which requires a fee to use after retirement.

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesThe hallway in front of the US Senate Chamber.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Former senators can still buy from the Senate Stationery Room, which carries many supplies and furnishings, and borrow exclusive materials from the Library of Congress.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Former lawmakers also have continued access to the floor of the chamber where they served as long as they have not become an “agent of foreign principal,” or employed to influence legislation.

Source: Congressional Research Service

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