What does it cost for The United States Congress to be in session for a single day? I recently heard a quote of $30 million, but did not see any supporting facts to back it up.

What would the total be taking into account their collective salaries, their staff, admin support, facilities, etc.?

This claim is made a facebook wall photo on the Democratic Party profile enter image description here

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  • 2
    source for the $30 million?
    – picakhu
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:01
  • 2
    This blog has it around there if you average it per day. It even breaks down where it comes up with the numbers... though I can not verify the numbers and those costs are if they are in session or not.
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 16:03
  • Please add a source for this claim, since otherwise this question is a bit off-topic here. This website is specifically for the critical investigation of notable claims. This one here lacks notability. Flag the question for re-opening when you’ve added a source demonstrating notability. Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 16:23
  • To help people who know how to read these things: 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill (Alternate Source). An analysis of the bill by the Federation of American Scientists.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 10:48

1 Answer 1


"For fiscal year 2013, it will cost an estimated $5.9 billion to operate Congress and the rest of the legislative branch. Salaries and benefits alone account for more than $2.5 billion of that sum."1,2

That number has been revised downward for 2013 to $5.64 billion, and is estimated for 2014 to be $5.8 billion.3

I'll look at the revised 2013 numbers for this analysis. Of the $5.64 billion, approximately $1 billion were "reimbursable expenses", leaving $4.585 billion in total direct obligations due to the legislative branch.3

Dividing that $4.585 billion evenly across all 365 days gives an average cost of $12.6 million per day.

However, that analysis may be too simplistic. In 2013, the house is in session 126 days.4 The senate is in session 195 days.5 Some expenses (for example: salary, rent) should be accounted for evenly across all days. Other expenses (for example: communication, advisory services, printing), should be accounted for more heavily on the days in session. This is a very crude division. Communication, printing, etc. can happen on out-of-session days, but I'll assume that it all happens on in-session days. Because of this, my estimates are something like upper bounds on what a single day could cost congress.

Allotting the following lines3 ($2,812 million) across all 365 days evenly results in $7.7 million per day.

  • 11.1-13.0 All Personnel Compensation and Benefits: $2,480 million
  • 23.1 Rental Payments to GSA: $47 million
  • 23.2 Rental Payments to others: $21 million
  • 31.0 Equipment: $139 million
  • 32.0 Land and Structure: $102 million
  • 33.0 Investments and Loans: $2 million
  • 41.0 Grants Subsidies and Contributions: $11 million
  • 94.0 Financial Transfers: $10 million

Allotting the remaining lines ($1,773 million in costs like supplies and materials, operation, advisory services, printing, communications, transport)3 across only days in session results in an additional 14 million per day (if we divide across the 126 days that the house is in session), or an additional 9 million per day (if we divide across the 195 days that the senate is in session).

In summary:

  • Costs per day that are due to expenses spread across the year: $7.7 million
  • Additional cost per in-session day: $9-14 million
  • Cost per day that the US congress is in session: $16.7 - $21.7 million


1. Carolina Miranda. Should we outsource congress?. TIME. July 25, 2012.

2. Object Class Analysis: Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2013. Office of Management and Budget. 2012. p.4

3. Object Class Analysis: Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2014. Office of Management and Budget. 2013. p.4

4. Eric Cantor. House Calendar for the First Session of the 113th Congress. 2012.

5. Dick Durbin and John Cornyn. Tentative Schedule for the First Session of the 113th Congress. 2012.

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