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CRS Report Details Perks for Outgoing Members of Congress

Sen. Mark Begich can still return to the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Even though lawmakers who will not be returning to Congress in January might feel downtrodden, they can find solace in the fact that they retain some congressional perks.  

Those perks, ranging from floor access to permanent identification cards, were outlined in the Congressional Research Service's Dec. 5 report titled "Selected Privileges and Courtesies Extended to Former Members of Congress." CRS American National Government specialist R. Eric Peterson wrote in the report, "Some [privileges] are derived from law and chamber rules, but others are courtesies that have been extended as a matter of custom." CRS issues the report near the end of each Congress, and the content of this year's report is the same as 2012. According to Peterson, the privileges extended to departing lawmakers have not changed in decades.  

These privileges include access to the floor of the chamber where they served, though senators who have not served in the House are traditionally granted House access as well. However, that access is revoked if the former member becomes a lobbyist or an "agent of foreign principal," meaning someone who advocates on behalf of foreign governments, political parties or organizations.  

If those lawmakers are visiting the floor, they can also park in House and Senate parking lots. They can still access House and Senate gyms after they leave as well, though for a fee. Congressional Research Service reports are also available to former members, though they can no longer request that the CRS conduct original research on their behalf.  

Former members of Congress can also obtain a permanent identification card from the clerk of the House or the Senate sergeant-at-arms, and become members of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress.  

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