Members of the House of Representatives are being told that no holiday greetings, including “Merry Christmas,” can be sent out in official mail.
According to the Washington Examiner, members who submit official mailings for review by the congressional franking commission that reviews all congressional mail to determine if it can be "franked," or paid for with tax dollars, are being told that no holiday greetings, including "Merry Christmas," can be sent.
"I called the commission to ask for clarification and was told no 'Merry Christmas.' Also told cannot say 'Happy New Year' but can say 'have a happy new year' – referencing the time period of a new year, but not the holiday," a Hill staffer who requested anonymity told the paper.
Another Hill staffer said that "we were given that advice after submitting" a draft mailing.
Members of Congress send millions of dollars worth of mail to constituents every year, but there are official rules that govern what can and cannot be said in those mailings. Members are barred, for example, from saying anything that might be construed as advocating their re-election.
But saying "Merry Christmas" is also not permitted, according to a Dec. 12 memo from the "Franking Commission Staff" concerning "Holiday Messaging." The memo explains:
Members are unable at the current time to use official resources to record holiday greetings, post on social media/website, or send to constituents in franked mail or e-communications.
Expenses related to the purchase or distribution of greetings, including holiday celebrations, condolences, and congratulations for personal distinctions (wedding anniversaries, birthdays, etc.), are not reimbursable.”
4(a). Example of Nonfrankable Items
-Birthday, anniversary, wedding, birth, retirement or condolence messages and holiday greetings are prohibited.”
You may make reference to the season as a whole using language along the lines of 'Have a safe and happy holiday season.' It may only be incidental to the piece rather than the primary purpose of the communication."
A franking commission spokesman told the Washington Examiner that members of Congress indeed cannot wish constituents "Merry Christmas" in any official mailing.
"Currently, incidental use of the phrase Happy Holidays is permissible, but Merry Christmas is not," said Salley Wood.
The paper notes that senators can say things congressmen can't because the Senate franking regulations say this:
"Senators may not use the frank to mail holiday cards. However, senators may use officially related funds to mail holiday cards to constituents. Holiday cards to friends should be sent with personal funds, not using Senate facilities.”