The Cost of Congress
What Americans Get for Their Money
by Karen Kunz and Stavros Atsas
June 2022, 351pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5800-0
$85, £66, 74€, A117
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5801-7
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On average, Congress spends $40 million dollars a year on spending bills that never materialize.

Congressional ratings have fallen to single digits; citizens believe that Congress fails to do the things its members are publicly paid to do. What does Congress do for our dollars, and how has that changed in the last 50 years?

What was the cost to taxpayers for Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings? What about the Benghazi investigation and efforts to obtain the votes required to repeal Obamacare while failing to consider Zika virus funding bills? What is the true cost of earmarks? Why do Congress members continue to get paid during government shutdowns?

Congress’s increasing use of continuing resolutions and agencies’ almost semi-annual preparations for government shutdowns come at a significant cost. Combining extensive documentary research with interviews of current and former members and staffers, The Cost of Congress assesses not only how Congress spends tax dollars on its operations but also what Americans receive for those dollars.

Kunz and Atsas assign dollar values, using federal data, to congressional practices and policies. They examine the costs of producing legislation, court challenges, and Supreme Court reversals. They also look at the costs of committee and special investigations, committee assignments, staffing and facilities, and such perks as the gym, meals, and franking. Readers—taxpayers from all walks of life—will come away with a comprehensive view of the costs of operating Congress.


  • Sheds light on the public costs of congressional lawmaking and operations as Congress becomes increasingly polarized and perceived as unable to govern
  • Reveals the significant cost of Congress's increasing use of continuing resolutions and agencies' almost semi-annual preparations for government shutdowns
  • Supplements conclusions developed through data analysis and statistical modeling with in-depth interviews with former and current members and staff that provide personal stories
  • Provides insight into controversial events and decisions, such as the 1995 and 2013 government shutdowns, the closure of the Office of Science and Technology, and the reallocation of some legislator salaries from discretionary to mandatory spending
Karen Kunz, DPA, is associate professor of public administration at West Virginia University. She teaches courses in public financial management, public budgeting, economic policy, and innovation leadership. She has written articles and conference papers on numerous federal fiscal policy issues, including the Affordable Care Act, congressional earmarking, financial markets regulation, and appropriations reform. Her work has appeared in journals including Municipal Finance Journal, Public Administration Review, Journal of Public Budgeting, and others. Her first book, coauthored with Jena Martin, is titled When the Levees Break: Re-visioning Regulation of the Securities Markets.

Stavros Atsas is a doctoral student in the Research, Measurement & Statistics program at Kent State University. He earned his master of public administration and master of arts in higher education administration at West Virginia University. He has a strong research interest in public policy, most notably in health, education, and budget areas, as evidenced by his publications in prestigious journals such as Clinical Anatomy and Community Development.
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