Louisiana voters send members of Congress to Washington to manage the federal budget, but how do the representatives do in managing their own office budgets?

Members are given an average $1.4 million a year for their individual offices. Recent House reports contain figures on spending for the first three months of the year.

A review of the disbursement records shows Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, was the biggest spender, doling out $311,377 for the three-month period. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, dished out $294,000, followed by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, who spent $272,816.

Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, spent $262,870 while Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, came in at $238,627.

The delegation’s two freshmen, Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, were the most thrifty with Richmond spending $233,087 and Landry coming in lowest at $205,457.

Part of their low numbers could be attributed to getting their new offices up and running.

The largest expense for all of the offices was staff pay. And the highest payment went to chiefs of staff.

Jeff Dobrozsi, of Boustany’s staff, was paid the most at $40,603, which calculates to $162,412 a year, only $12,000 less than Boustany himself. Dobrozsi’s salary is commensurate with his Washington experience and years of service with the office, Boustany said.

In Scalise’s office, chief of staff Lynnel Ruckert received $37,966 for the quarter, equal to $151,864 for the year. Former Fleming chief of state, James Hennigan, received $36,666, which would be $146,664 for the year.

Travel also was separated in the report. Most of those costs were for flights to and from the districts. Alexander had a $20,000 payment from unused taxpayer funds last year for an SUV that is also used by his district staff. The report showed Alexander’s office also pays $160 a month as part of a two-year lease.

Fleming and his district staff opted for using Fleming’s personal SUV and wracked up about $1,900 in mileage bills at 49 cents a mile for the months of January and February.

The reports can be viewed at http://disbursements.house.gov. Senate spending records were unavailable, according to the Senate records office.

Vitter obstructs

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is blocking the nomination of a Department of Interior assistant secretary until the agency extends hundreds of Gulf of Mexico drilling leases that are set to expire this year.

Vitter pointed to 300 leases that are due to expire.

“If these leases are allowed to expire, they will revert back to the federal government, killing jobs and cutting off potential revenue from exploration and production,” Vitter said in a statement.

Rebecca Wodder has been nominated as assistant secretary for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In May, President Barack Obama said his administration is extending Gulf drilling leases impacted by a temporary moratorium last year.

Vitter routinely blocks administration nominations. Earlier in the year, he held up the nomination of an U.S. Department of Interior selection, Don Ashe, until 15 deepwater exploration well permits were issued by the administration.

Vitter also blocked a $20,000 pay increase to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar until the department issued permits equal to the pace previous to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which has yet to occur.

Landry is in the chamber

Landry has joined a coalition of conservative U.S. House members who successfully convinced leadership to keep the chamber open to block any Obama administration recess appointments.

President Barack Obama is able to make the selections if the chambers are out.

The maneuver relies on the House staying in what are called “pro forma sessions,” meaning the chamber must meet every three days. It only takes one member to gavel in the U.S. House.

The move forces the U.S. Senate, who votes on all nominations, to stay in too.

Landry will travel to Washington to preside over the chamber Friday.

Compiled by Gerard Shields, chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is GerardShields@aol.com.