You would think record budget deficits and the need fiscal restraint would curtail Congressional travel… but you’d be wrong:
WASHINGTON — Spending by lawmakers on taxpayer-financed trips abroad has risen sharply in recent years, a Wall Street Journal analysis of travel records shows, involving everything from war-zone visits to trips to exotic spots such as the Galápagos Islands.
The spending on overseas travel is up almost tenfold since 1995, and has nearly tripled since 2001, according to the Journal analysis of 60,000 travel records. Hundreds of lawmakers traveled overseas in 2008 at a cost of about $13 million. That’s a 50% jump since Democrats took control of Congress two years ago.
The cost of so-called congressional delegations, known among lawmakers as “codels,” has risen nearly 70% since 2005, when an influence-peddling scandal led to a ban on travel funded by lobbyists, according to the data.
Lawmakers say that the trips are a good use of government funds because they allow members of Congress and their staff members to learn more about the world, inspect U.S. assets abroad and forge better working relationships with each other. The travel, for example, includes official visits to American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You can’t really blame members of Congress… after all they’re important people who have places to go and facts to find. Places like the Galápagos Islands to learn about global warming or junkets to the Virgin Islands, Italy, Paris and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
All this travel is made possible by a fleet of 16 passenger aircraft maintained by the Air Force… How, exactly, is that any different from a fleet of corporate jets???
Anyway my favorite bit of questionable travel highlighted by the Journal’s analysis has to be the February trip to Afghanistan and Italy led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (emphasis mine):
Often, lawmakers combine trips to war zones with visits to more tranquil spots. In February, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of Democratic lawmakers to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan for a day. Before landing in Kabul, the eight lawmakers and their entourage of spouses and aides spent eight days in Italy, spending $57,697 on hotels and meals.
Pfft… these are the same self serving parasites who have the nerve to lecture corporate executives on the use of corporate jets while jetting all over the world on our dime??? Hypocrites!