Cost of Congressional Foreign Travel Triples Since 2001

Sunday, July 05, 2009
Congress goes to the Galápagos

While Congress oversaw ballooning federal deficits this decade, lawmakers also ramped up their expenses on overseas travel, the Wall Street Journal found. A review of congressional records revealed spending on foreign junkets by members of the House and Senate has nearly tripled since 2001, and gone up almost tenfold since 1995. Lawmakers routinely claim these trips are used to help broaden their understanding of critical issues in other countries.

Last month, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) led a small group of senators and their spouses on a four-day trip to see the Paris Air Show in France. They used an Air Force plane that costs $5,700 an hour to operate and stayed at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand Hotel, where rooms go for $460 a night.
In February, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and seven Democratic lawmakers prepared for their one-day visit to Afghanistan by first staying eight days in Italy. Cost: $57,697. A Pelosi spokesman said the Italian stopover involved visiting with U.S. troops at Aviano Air Base, laying a wreath at the Florence American Cemetery, giving a speech to Italian lawmakers and visiting the Pope, among other things.
Last October, lame-duck Congressman Bud Cramer (R-AL) spent two weeks in Europe on “government business,” spending $5,700 on hotels, meals and incidentals. Cramer had decided not to run for re-election and left Washington for good two months later.
Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) and four other lawmakers took their families last summer to the Galápagos Islands. They spent $22,000 in an effort to learn about global warming.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Congress's Travel Tab Swells (by Brody Mullins and T.W. Farnam, Wall Street Journal)


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