Members Of Congress Have A New Way To Earn Points, Generate Credit Card Spend

It took 20 years – and George W. Bush – for federal employees to be allowed to collect frequent flyer miles on official travel. Now members of the U.S. House of Representatives can pay for travel to D.C. themselves, on personal credit cards, collect miles and points and get reimbursed from their House office.

That’s a new change that will give them:

  • $172 – $257 per night for lodging while in D.C. (varies by month seasonally)
  • $79 daily for meals and incidentals ($59.25 on the first and last days of travel)

They can rent apartments and take partial reimbursement, or stay in hotels at federal employee rates, and earn points and elite status – doing it all on a hotel co-brand or bank transferable points card. And all of a sudden they can be earning 3x or 4x on dining, without coming out of pocket..


— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) January 11, 2023

This was approved in the last (Democratic) Congress and implemented in this one, and is funded out of the Members Representational Allowance. The move is being criticized as a ‘back door pay increase’ and some shade is being thrown at members who oppose an increase in the minimum wage.

The first half of Eddie Murphy’s The Distinguished Gentleman (1992) was the single best movie ever made about politics, and he explains the con:

And yet I think there’s another way to look at it,

  • Travel to and from a primary workplace, and meals during regular work, aren’t usually reimbursable for ordinary taxpayers.

  • But Members are, effectively, expected to maintain two residents – one in their district and one in D.C. for work.

  • And maybe it’s better to have their office cover these expenses than have them rely on donors?

  • Otherwise it’s only those who are already wealthy that can afford to become Representatives, or those for whom a Congressional salary minus these expenses is a step up in how much they could otherwise earn (and maybe those aren’t the people you’d want writing laws?).

I’m always a little bit torn between thinking those governing us should remain connecting to those they represent, and experience life in the same way, and believing that they (at least should) have a high opportunity cost of time and that we want them working all the time, actually reading legislation on the plane, etc. and therefore ought to be traveling first class. Surely Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen should be flying first class, at least.

I wonder if it’s the miles that will keep George Santos from resigning?

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