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Democrat Congress Ramps Up Taxpayer-Funded Vacations

Here’s an interesting tidbit: before Republicans lost control of the Congress, they banned most lobbyist-funded travel. Since Democrats took control of Congress, taxpayer-funded travel has gone up dramatically:

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 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…

The Journal analysis, based on information published in the Congressional Record, also shows that taxpayer-funded travel is a big and growing perk for lawmakers and their families. Some members of Congress have complained in recent months about chief executives of bailed-out banks, insurance companies and car makers who sponsored corporate trips to resorts or used corporate jets for their own travel.

Although complete travel records aren’t yet available for 2009, it appears that such costs continue to rise. The Journal analysis shows that the government has picked up the tab for travel to destinations such as Jamaica, the Virgin Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Lawmakers frequently bring along spouses on congressional trips. If they take commercial flights, they have to buy tickets for spouses. If they fly on government planes — as they usually do — their spouses can fly free…

Last summer, Rep. Brian Baird (D., Wash.) took a four-day trip to the Galápagos Islands with his wife, four other lawmakers and their family members. The lawmakers spent $22,000 on meals and hotels, records show. Mr. Baird, a member of the House Science Committee, said the trip was to learn about global warming.

On the first day, lawmakers toured a breeding center for giant tortoise and land iguanas before dining with scientists, according to an itinerary for the trip. The next morning, lawmakers headed to the Galápagos National Park while their family members had the option of hiking, swimming or shopping. That afternoon, the group boarded a boat to visit a sea-lion colony and search for white-tip sharks.

When lobbyist-funded vacations were banned, the intent was not to replace them with taxpayer-funded ones. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid ought to get called on the carpet to explain why Congress suddenly views the Defense Department and State Department as travel agencies who book and pay for lawmakers’ family vacations.

And perhaps the next time a panel of corporate executives gets called on the carpet to answer questions about overly generous bonuses, they ought to ask the Congressional Star Chamber to answer the same questions first.

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