USA Today has published a copy of the November 2010 edition of the Senate Handbook, a "compilation of the policies and regulations governing office administration, equipment and services, security and financial management." It has never been released publicly before, which means we now have much more about how Senate offices go about their business, decorate their office spaces, etc.
In fact, it's far more than you would ever want to know. But now that the information has been published online, we can at least tell when elected officials are fudging the official rules.
We read the manual (so you don't have t0). Here are some of the more random things we learned about being a senator:
1. There are lengthy rules if you would like hold music for your Senate phone lines.
"Music on hold is available to Leadership offices as an alternative to silence when callers to their office are placed on hold. The Leaders, Whips/Assistant Leaders and Conference Secretaries may select one program source from four available options. The selected program will provide music on hold to all lines within that office. The available music options are Light Classical, Environmental, Patriotic and Country. You may listen to samples of the four selections by calling 8-2057 and following the prompts.
We listened to the samples, and we advise that all senators choose the country selection. It starts with Kenny Chesney's "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy."
2. If you have requested and have received a typewriter, electric or manual, for your Senate office, it should last a minimum of 10 years. Microfiche viewers are also expected to last 10 years.
3. Former senators are still allowed to use Senate dining rooms -- on a limited basis. You are also allowed to get haircuts at the Senate hair salon.
4. When the Senate is in session, music is prohibited in the Senate wing of the Capitol. However, music is allowed after 5 p.m. while the Senate is in recess. If you want to sing in Senate spaces, you must obtain a waiver.
5. You can borrow a piano for office functions.
6. If you want to put a U.S. flag or your state flag outside your office, the Senate Stationary Office can get those for you. But you have to bring the flags into your office every night.
7. The U.S. Botanical Garden has a loaning library of plants for Senate offices. But you can only borrow three at a time, and only six total during an entire year.
8. No getting fancy with your carpets or curtains. The Capitol has a limited color palette available for replacement furnishings in order to make sure the Capitol looks "historic." However, each office gets a budget of $2,500 to buy furniture and curtains or whatever to make their office special and unique.
9. The amount of blank paper and envelopes given to each senator is based on the population of their state. California senators get more than 30 million sheets of blank paper and more than 3.1 million envelopes annually. Alaska senators get 1.8 million sheets of blank paper and 180,000 envelopes annually.
10. The Office of Printing Services keeps a running tally of how many sheets of blank paper Senate offices have used.
11. "Senators are allotted a total of 50 picture frames" every year. This number includes a maximum of 20 gold picture frames.
12. The rules explicitly prohibit senators from using appropriated funds for holiday cards.
13. If senators want their portrait taken, they need to reserve time at least a day in advance.
14. The Senate Library subscribes to more than 100 newspapers and magazines.
15. If you want to expense travel reading: "Periodicals purchased while in a travel status should be limited to newspapers and news magazines necessary to stay informed on issues directly related to Senate business." Sorry, People magazine.
16. Reporters are not permitted to read newspapers in the Senate chambers.
17. Senate employees get special pins after 12 years of working with the Senate. They also get pins for 20 and 30 years of service.
18. Bulk shredding of documents and files is available; ask the Rules Committee for more details.
19. Every mass mailing sent out by Senate offices must include the line, "PREPARED, PUBLISHED, AND MAILED AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE." It must be typed in a font size no smaller than 7 pt.
20. Frequent flier miles may only be used for a senator's personal use if they "have been obtained at no additional cost to the Federal Government."
Anyone want to guess whether that last one gets abused?
This post has been updated.