Selected Privileges and Courtesies Extended to Former Senators
Selected Privileges and Courtesies
Extended to Departing and Former Senators
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
This report provides information on selected privileges and courtesies (with the
exception of federal health insurance, life insurance, and retirement benefits) extended
to departing and former Senators. For additional information, please refer to CRS
Report 98-962, Selected Privileges and Courtesies Extended to Departing and Former
Members of the House; CRS Report RL30631, Retirement Benefits of Members of
Congress; and CRS Report RS21982 Health Benefits for Members of Congress. This
report will be updated periodically as appropriate.
Privileges and Courtesies
After Members of the U.S. Senate leave office, they are afforded certain courtesies
and privileges. Some are derived from law and Senate Rules, but many are courtesies that
have been extended as a matter of custom. Former Senators who become lobbyists have
This report has been compiled in consultation with the staff of the Senate Library.
Other sources included the offices of the Secretary of the Senate, Senate Sergeant at
Arms, Senate Parliamentarian, Senate Postmaster, Senate Historian, and Senate Stationery
Store; the Senate Disbursing Office; and the Washington National Records Center of the1
National Archives and Records Administration.
(1) Floor Privileges. Former Senators are entitled to admission to the floor of the
Senate while it is in session (Senate Rule XXIII). A Senator who becomes a registered
1 See also U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, U.S. Senate
Handbook, S. Prt. 109-70, 109th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Washington: GPO, 2006), pp. I-89 through
I-103; and Congressional Management Foundation, “Management Guidance for Closing a
Congressional Office,” available at [http://www.cmfweb.org/storage/cmfweb/documents/
CMF_Pubs/closing_a_congressional_office2008.pdf], visited June 11, 2008.
lobbyist, agent of a foreign principal, or is employed to influence legislation, is denied
floor privileges except for ceremonial functions and events designated by the Majority
Leader and Minority Leader (Senate Rule XXIII, clause 2).
Senators who, upon leaving office, become registered lobbyists under the Federal
Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946 or any successor statute (e.g., the Lobbying
Disclosure Act of 1995, as amended), or who are employed or retained for the purpose of
influencing legislation, are prohibited from lobbying Members, officers, or employees of
either house of Congress for two years after leaving office.2 In addition, Senate rules
prohibit former Senators who become lobbyists from lobbying any Member, officer, or
employee of the Senate for two years after leaving office (Senate Rule XXXVII, clause
Former Senators who also served as Members of the House of Representatives have
floor privileges in the House.3 By tradition, former Senators who did not serve in the
House are also given floor privileges in the House, including joint meetings and sessions
(2) Closing a Senate Office. The office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms assists
in closing an office. Customer Support Analysts (202-224-0821) help with Senate offices
in Washington, DC, and the home state including coordinating the initial closing planning
meeting between the office and all Senate support units (U.S. Senate Handbook, p. I-100).
Other services offered by the Senate Sergeant at Arms include the following:
2 Previously, pursuant to the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 (P.L. 101-194, 103 Stat. 1719), Members
of Congress were prohibited for one year after leaving office from lobbying or making advocacy
contacts with any Member, officer, or employee of either house of Congress or any employee of
a legislative office (18 U.S.C. § 207(e)). However, P.L. 110-8, the Honest Leadership and Open
Government Act of 2007, extended the ban on Senators to two years (18 U.S.C. §207(e)(1)(A),
as amended by P.L. 110-81, Section 101).
In addition, the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 prohibits any Member of Congress, for one year after
leaving office, from representing an official foreign entity before the United States, or aiding or
advising such entity with the intent to influence any decision of an agency or employee of the
United States Government (18 U.S.C. § 207(f)). There is a further restriction on any Member
who worked personally and substantially on a treaty or trade negotiation and who had access to
information that is not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. A former
Senator is prohibited from using such information for one year after leaving office for the
purpose of aiding, assisting, advising, or representing anyone other than the United States
regarding such trade or treaty negotiation (18 U.S.C. § 207(b)).
3 House Rule IV, clause 4, denies privileges of the House floor and rooms leading thereto to
former Members of the House if they (1) are a registered lobbyist or the agent of a foreign
principal (as defined in Rule XXV, clause 5); (2) have any direct personal or pecuniary interest
in any legislative measure pending before the House or reported by any committee of the House;
or (3) are employed by or represent any party or organization for the purpose of influencing
directly or indirectly, the passage, defeat, or amendment of any legislative proposal. The Speaker
may promulgate regulations that exempt ceremonial or educational functions from these
restrictions. House Rules also prohibit former Members who are lobbyists from using the House
exercise facilities (H.Res. 6, Section 511(c), adopted Jan. 4, 2007).
(a) Purchasing Office Equipment. The Senate Sergeant at Arms may sell
departing Senators office equipment located in their Washington, DC, or state offices,
subject to certain restrictions. They may purchase only one of each type of general office
equipment (exclusive of furniture). It must have reached the end of its expected useful
life and been declared surplus to the needs of the Senate by the Sergeant at Arms at least
30 days prior to the end of a Senator’s tenure. Questions regarding the purchase of Senate
office equipment should be directed to the Asset Management Division of the Sergeant
at Arms (202-224-6751).
(b) Purchasing State Office Furnishings. Within 30 days of leaving office,
a departing Senator has the option to purchase through the Sergeant at Arms any
furnishings provided by the General Services Administration (GSA) in one home state
office (2 U.S.C. § 59(b)). The purchase shall be at depreciated fair market value prices
and in accordance with regulations prescribed by GSA. Questions regarding such
purchases should be directed to the State Office Liaison Division of the Sergeant at Arms
(c) Purchasing Senate Chamber Chair. A departing Senator may purchase his
or her Senate chamber chair upon written request to the Senate Sergeant at Arms. The
name plate on each Senator’s desk in the Senate chamber is automatically mailed to the
Senator by the Sergeant at Arms when he or she leaves office or is sent with his or her
purchased chamber chair. Questions regarding the purchase of a chamber chair should
be directed to the Capitol Facilities Office of the Sergeant at Arms (202-224-4171).
(3) Storage/Shipment of Inactive Office Files. While a Senator is in office,
the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, MD, stores inactive office files
under a storage program authorized by the National Archives and Records
By mid-December before leaving office in January, a departing Senator is obligated
to remove his or her papers from the Records Center. At a Senator’s written request, the
National Archives will return the papers, destroy them, or prepare them for shipping.
Records can be sent to a designated library or educational institution, a state archive or
historical society, or a private residence. Senators are requested to notify the Records
Center about what should be done with the stored records. The Center will prepare the
records for shipment when a transfer is desired, but cannot pay the shipping costs. For
additional information, Senators should call the Washington National Records Center
(4) Archival Disposition of Office Files. The Senate Historical Office (202-
224-6900), upon request, will confer with offices about processing and planning for the
disposition of a Senator’s papers. The Historical Office has prepared a publication,
Records Management Handbook For U.S. Senators and Their Archival Repositories
(Senate Publication 109-19), which provides advice to current and former Senators about
the management of office papers and records.
(5) Franking Privilege. Former Senators are authorized to use the frank for 90
days immediately after they leave office. Only official matters relating to the closing of
their offices are frankable (39 U.S.C. § 3210(b)(c)). Any questions should be directed to
the Senate Select Committee on Ethics (202-224-2981).
(6) Other Mailing Service. The Senate Post Office will forward mail until
January 31 of the year following a Senator’s departure. For Senators who leave before
the end of a session, the Post Office will forward mail for up to one year. Any questions
regarding mail service for former Senators should be directed to the Senate Post Office
(7) Use of the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS provides
reference and research assistance on a limited basis to former Members of Congress.
They may use the LaFollette Congressional Reading Room (LM-202, James Madison
Memorial Building), the CRS Rayburn Research Center (B-335 Rayburn Building), and
the CRS Senate Research Center (B-07 Russell Building). Services available at these
locations include reference collections and assistance in the use of Library of Congress
materials and resources. Former Members may also receive CRS general distribution
products, responses to reference questions, and guidance for undertaking further research
and analysis. CRS cannot undertake original research for former Members. Former
Members may request CRS assistance in person, by telephone (202-707-5700), by fax
(202-707-6745), or in writing to Daniel P. Mulhollan, Director, Congressional Research
Service, Washington, DC 20540-7000. Former congressional staff may use the Library
of Congress public reading rooms, but are not permitted to use the LaFollette
Congressional Reading Room or other CRS research centers or facilities. For additional
information, contact Lizanne Kelley, Deputy Associate Director for the Office of
Congressional Affairs and Counselor to the Director (202-707-8833).
(8) Use of the Library of Congress. Borrowing privileges at the Library of
Congress are available to former Senators whose accounts are clear and who are residing
in the Washington, DC area. The telephone number of the loan division is 202-707-5445.
The Library is unable to make deliveries to former Members.
(9) Priority in Committee Testimony. When testifying before a congressional
committee, a former Senator frequently is permitted to testify immediately after
incumbent Members of Congress and before other witnesses.
(10) Parking on the Senate Side of the Capitol. Upon request by a former
Senator, the Senate Parking Office (202-224-8888) will issue a parking permit for any
Senate-controlled outdoor parking area. The permit must be displayed on a car
dashboard. No permit is available for indoor parking, but arrangements can frequently
be made on a day-to-day basis by calling the Senate Rules Committee (202-224-6352).
However, any former Senator who becomes a registered lobbyist or agent of a foreign
principal, or who is employed or retained for the purpose of influencing legislation, may
not use Member-only parking spaces (Senate Rule XXIII, clause 3).
(11) Use of Senate Athletic Facilities. For a fee, former Senators are allowed
to use the Senate athletic facilities. However, any former Senator who becomes a
registered lobbyist or agent of a foreign principal, or who is employed or retained for the
purpose of influencing legislation, may not use the facilities (Senate Rule XXIII, clause
(12) Other Traditional Benefits and Courtesies Extended to Former
!Services from the Senate Disbursing Office, including check cashing
privileges and assistance with retirement and other benefits
!Use of the Senate Credit Union
!Permanent ID from the Senate Sergeant at Arms
!Limited use of the Senate Dining Room
!Use of the Senate Library, including borrowing privileges
!Documents from the Senate document room upon personal request of the
!Purchasing privileges in the Senate Stationery Room
!Membership in the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress