The Senate Has Secret Rules for Everything

A secret 380-page tome manages the intricacies of life in the U.S. Senate.

A secret book of rules that governs the minutia of live in the U.S. Senate was published this morning by USA Today.  Here are some of the revelations:

• Senators can't buy flowers, alcohol or hire family members, but can charter private planes, boats, cars or "other conveyance" if it it's "advantageous to the Senate." Two dozen senators combined to bill taxpayers ore about $1 million in charter flights last year, the newspaper reported in July.

• Office space is determined by seniority, but for there is a separate ranking system for those entering office at the same time. Former vice presidents outrank all incoming members -- except those who have served in the Senate before. There's even a tie breaker for when all factors are equal: alphabetical order of surnames.

• Senators get a per diem of $165 while traveling, and can use any accrued frequent traveler incentives for personal use.

• Studio photographers with professional high-resolution digital cameras are available for tax-payer funded photo sessions (there are some charges for making prints.)

•  In the Senate Dining, it's recommended that male visitors wear a coat and tie while female guests "be attired properly (no shorts, t-shirts or jeans)." The dinig is also open to -- gasp! -- House members. (There is also a separate senators-only private dining room.)

• Certain employees of the Senate can get up to $500 per month to pay off student loans.

• Each senator gets two special license plates that let them use special parking places on Capitol Hill, at Dulles International Airport and at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

• Senators get letterhead, envelopes and blank paper based on the number of constituents. (One and one-third pieces of blank paper for each adult!) So Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson of Florida are allowed 14,392,000 pieces of paper, 1,416,557 pieces of letter head and 1,416,557 envelopes, while Alaska's Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski get just 1,800,000 pieces of paper and 180,000 envelopes and pieces of letterhead.

• Every senator's office suite comes with a standard set of furniture and accessories, including, of course, a mirror, presumably so each senator can see a potential presidential candidate looking back at them. Senators get a copy of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (which they must return when no longer needed) and can request a piano for the suite.

• Two flags -- state or U.S. -- can be displayed outside each office, but *must* be moved inside the office each night.

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