Wednesday Jun 15, 201101:09 PM GMT
Senate sets record for travel costs
Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:10PM
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The costs of overseas trips taken by Senators and their staffers jumped by about 20 percent last year, reaching an all-time high of more than $5 million in publicly reported costs, which is still likely less than half the actual total.


According to travel disclosures published in the Congressional Record, the federal government spent $5.2 million on trips overseas for Senators and their staffs in 2010. The year before, the total figure was about $4.4 million after reaching its previous high of $4.9 million in 2008, according to the Congressional Research Service.


As Roll Call has previously reported, the trip expenses that show up in the Congressional Record represent only a fraction of their true cost, as millions of dollars spent by the Pentagon to provide government aircraft and most of the logistical arrangements handled by the State Department are not included in the Congressional reports.


Congressional foreign travel is paid out of a bottomless account at the Treasury Department that refills itself and does not require appropriations from Congress. Since there is no limit on or budget for travel overseas, there is little incentive for travelers to pare back trip costs or examine the costs of such travel on an annual basis. Roll Call




Though Senate reports have disclosed about $27.7 million in travel costs in the Congressional Record from 2001 to 2009, according to the CRS, annual Treasury Department reports indicate that its Senate travel account actually paid out about $36.8 million during that period.


When Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and a staffer visited Haiti in February 2010 to survey earthquake damage, for example, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee reported that $25.14 was spent on the trip.


The office of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reported sending two staffers to Haiti during the same period for a total cost of only $36.75. Other expenses for the group of bipartisan lawmakers were likely paid by the Pentagon and do not show up in the Congressional Record.


Senators and staffers with the Foreign Relations Committee spent more on travel overseas than those with any other committee. Over the past year, the committee spent nearly $1 million on trips abroad.


The Senate Intelligence Committee also reported high travel costs, spending about $815,000 during the year [2010], though the destinations or details about the committee's trips are not disclosed.


The Appropriations Committee reported expenses of about $600,000 in 2010. As the year drew to a close, the committee spent more than $125,000 to send staffers to locations that included Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Germany, Italy and Djibouti. Roll Call



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