The Nevada Independent

Your state. Your news. Your voice.

The Nevada Independent

D.C. Download: How Nevada House reps are using expanded rule to reimburse rent, meals

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) was the delegation’s biggest spender under a new policy that allows members to seek taxpayer payback for more food and rent costs.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
East front U.S. Capitol May 13, 2021. (Humberto Sanchez/The Nevada Independent).

A rule change allowing House members to expense lodging and food costs while in D.C. has brought a spate of headlines this month about exactly what representatives are charging taxpayers for.

Under the change enacted in the lame duck session of Congress in early 2023, each House member now gets an expanded scope in which to use their Member’s Representational Allowance (MRA) — a fixed amount from which they pay members of their staff, office costs, telecommunications and transportation between their districts and D.C.

Previously, House members could not allocate any of their MRA toward the cost of their lodging and eating in D.C. — long a frustration of members, who have gone 15 years without a pay raise. While state legislators in Nevada, for example, get a per diem allowance while they’re serving in Carson City, members of Congress do not. They have had to pay out of pocket for a D.C. residence and associated costs out of their salaries or bank accounts.

It’s one of many reasons members of Congress skew wealthy and a fact that has led lawmakers for years to sleep in their offices or live with each other in spaces often likened to frat houses. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) notoriously slept on a mattress in a living room in a rat-infested row house.

After the rule change, The New York Times calculated that members could expense up to $34,000 for the weeks in which Congress is in session. To be clear, that doesn’t mean taxpayers are on the hook for more spending — it just means members can use their prefixed representational allowances (different from than salaries) for new line items.

And what’s more, they don’t have to turn in receipts — though they are encouraged to keep them. (I don’t know about your workplace, but we have to send in receipts for our expenses here!)

The News of the Week: MRAs

The new policy around expensing is governed by a few stipulations — members who own property in D.C. can only charge taxpayers for non-mortgage payments, such as utilities and insurance.

Members earn a salary of $174,000 per year — their MRA is a separate pool of money, about $1.57 million, that they use to staff and build out their offices. Now, more than 300 members have claimed these new reimbursements, according to an analysis by The Washington Post

That element has landed Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) in hot water. The Washington Post reported that Mace expensed more than $2,000 per month despite owning a $1.65 million townhouse in D.C. The House Ethics Committee is now reviewing her reimbursements.

The Nevada Angle

Despite most of the House seeking reimbursement through this new method in 2023, only two of Nevada’s four House members claimed food or lodging expenses in their quarterly statements of disbursements

Reps. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and Susie Lee (D-NV) did not personally expense any food or lodging under their travel budgets.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) charged $395.45 from April 20-22, 2023, for lodging. Her office said that was for an official trip to the border community of Brownsville, Texas — unrelated to her cost of living in Washington, D.C. 

She also expensed $632.70 on food in the summer of 2023, including times when Congress was in recess. Her office said those expenses represent lunches she had with community leaders while in the district in her official capacity — a practice she has followed for years that has always been permissible under House rules.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) by far claimed the most out of the delegation. He expensed $22,689 on lodging in 2023, and through March 2024, he claimed an additional $2,895. 

Horsford’s office said these costs represent his rent during the weeks in which Congress is in session. He did not charge taxpayers for his rent during August, when the House was in recess.

“Following the process outlined by the House Administration & Ethics Committees, Congressman Horsford is reimbursed for his monthly rental costs when Congress is in session,” his spokesperson, Miguel Ayala, said in a statement to The Nevada Independent.

His monthly rent charges depend on how often he had to be in D.C. — it was highest in October, when the House worked a number of additional days after then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was deposed to elect a new speaker. He was reimbursed $3,393 in October for lodging costs.

Horsford’s reimbursements are allowed because he rents rather than owns. The only property registered under his name is in Las Vegas; his ex-wife owned a home in Northern Virginia but sold it in 2023.

As a point of comparison, Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) was the program’s top reimbursement seeker. He expensed more than $32,000 on lodging last year and an additional sum of about $12,000 on food.

Around the Capitol

📫Shooting the messenger — Amodei and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) are escalating their battle against the U.S. Postal Service over its decision to relocate mail processing from Reno to Sacramento — introducing a bill to stop the move.

The bill, which each member introduced in their respective chambers, would prevent the service from closing or consolidating a processing center if the center is already falling short of timely delivery standards or if doing so would leave a state without such a center or make it so that there is no processing center within 125 miles of the one the Postal Service is targeting — which is what would happen in Reno.

Other members of Congress have taken issue with the Postal Service over similar frustrations with postal processing centers in their states, so there’s certainly an audience of potential co-sponsors for this bill.

📮Comstopped In more mail-related news, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) is trying to protect the practice of sending abortion medication through the mail by introducing a bill to repeal the Comstock Act, an 1800s-era law at the center of Project 2025 — a suite of policy proposals from former Trump officials.

Officials in Trump’s circle have proposed using the law, which prohibits sending “obscene matter” including contraceptives and abortion-related items, as a means to end abortion access nationally through executive action. Much of it goes unenforced today.

Cortez Masto, Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) and 14 other Democratic senators say the Stop Comstock Act would remove the portions around abortion and sexual health.

🔫Rosen v. Vance Rosen had harsh words for a Vance who she said offended Las Vegans — and it’s not Deborah. (Little joke for Hacks fans there.)

After Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) called a potential vote to ban bump stocks a “PR problem” rather than a real solution, Rosen popped off, saying Vance should see the memorials to those who died in the 2017 1 October shooting in Las Vegas to understand the devastation a bump stock caused.

What I’m Reading

USA Today: Courting Latino voters, Kamala Harris to visit Las Vegas after Biden-Trump debate

The frequent flier returns.

The Nevada Independent: Nevada Democrats sue to kick RFK Jr. off presidential ballot over party affiliations

Have they considered he just likes to party?

KUNR: Nonpartisans feel disenfranchised, written off, excluded from primaries in swing states

I know a ballot question calling their names.

Notable and Quotable

“For us, the carnage created by bump stocks is very real, so shame on anyone who says it's a fake problem."

— Rosen, on Vance’s comments on bump stocks while speaking at Senate Democrats’ weekly press conference

Vote of the Week

PN1461On the Cloture Motion (Motion to Invoke Cloture: Nancy L. Maldonado to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit )

This judicial nomination is not inherently notable other than that Thursday was the worst day for Senate attendance this year. But look who stayed to vote!




Featured Videos

7455 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy Suite 220 Las Vegas, NV 89113
Privacy PolicyRSSContactNewslettersSupport our Work
The Nevada Independent is a project of: Nevada News Bureau, Inc. | Federal Tax ID 27-3192716