The congressional franking commission that reviews all congressional mail is taking a stand against Members of the House of Representatives writing holiday greetings. Fox News reports that Hill staffers tell the Washington Examiner that mail with greetings such as "Merry Christmas" or "Happy New Year," has been barred by the franking commission:
"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."
A December 12 memo from the "Franking Commission Staff" concerning "Holiday Messaging," sent to Members reads:
"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."
Members of Congress send millions of dollars worth of mail to constituents every year, and are barred from saying certain things in franked mail such as anything that might be construed as advocating their re-election.
While Members of the House may be unable to express unprovoked holiday greetings in official mail, the Washington Examiner reports that the Senate Ethics Committee, which handles franking in the upper chamber, is a little less strict:
"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.
Senators also may NOT use the frank to acknowledge holiday greetings that were sent to them. Senators may express holiday greetings at the commencement or conclusion of otherwise frankable mail."