"I called the commission to ask for clarification and was told no 'Merry Christmas.' [I was] also told [House members] 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 Washington Examiner.
House members must submit all official mailings for review by the congressional franking commission — which determines whether congressional mail can be "franked," or paid for with tax dollars.
Franking commission spokesman Salley Wood told the paper, however, that: "Currently, incidental use of the phrase happy holidays is permissible but merry Christmas is not."
The Examiner cites a Dec. 12 memo from the Franking Commission staff concerning holiday messaging.
The memo reportedly 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.
Members' Congressional Handbook:
GREETINGS — 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.