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What House lawmakers can do — and what they can't — on a sequestered Capitol Hill

The US Capitol in Washington, DC, is seen February 28, 2013.
The US Capitol in Washington, DC, is seen February 28, 2013.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Congress is learning how sequestration cuts come home to roost.

First, it was a list of entrances to House office buildings that will be closed due to sequestration cuts affecting the Capitol Police. That means longer lines getting through the security line at the remaining entrances.

Now, the House Ethics Committee is laying down the law about what members and their staffs can and cannot do to get by with fewer resources.

In a memo sent by the Ethics Committee and ranking member Linda Sanchez (D-Cerritos), House lawmakers are reminded that “ethics rules, laws, and standards of conduct remain in effect and may be relevant as you consider various methods of savings.”

For instance, you can’t use campaign funds to pay for office furniture or computer equipment or even to hire someone to open constituent mail. And there are “significant limitations” on the use of volunteer services in place of paid staff.

Oh, and you can’t ask paid staff to stick around and open those letters once they’re off the clock.

If you’re a staffer who’s been furloughed a few days a month, and you’re looking for a part-time gig to pay the bills, be careful. Ethics rules apply. You can’t use your House cubicle or the computer or phone in that cubicle for that second job. Even a staffer’s choice of a second job is limited, since they’re prohibited from “performing work that overlaps or conflicts with one's House duties.”