The Many Perks of Congressional Employment | Citizens Against Government Waste

The Many Perks of Congressional Employment

The WasteWatcher

Supposedly in Denmark to attend the Copenhagen Climate Summit, multiple members of Congress have been criticized for treating the trip as a personal vacation.  The trip included seven Republicans and 15 Democrats, most notably House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

According to a January 11, 2010 CBSNews.com article, the members of Congress brought with them at least 101 congressional staffers, requiring three military jets costing taxpayers $168,000 in flight-related expenses.  The CBS News investigation discovered that 321 nights in hotels were booked for the trip, with the majority of the hotel rooms at Copenhagen’s five-star Marriott. 

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a noted climate change critic, traveled to the summit to present an opposing viewpoint.  In the CBSNews.com article, Sen. Inhofe criticized his colleagues, saying they were “…going because it’s the biggest party of the year,” and that “The worst thing that happened there is they ran out of caviar.”

The Copenhagen trip is just the latest example of congressional travel that has created a stir.  In November 2009, 12 representatives and several of their spouses and legislative aides attended the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, staying in a $300-per night hotel overlooking the Edinburgh Castle.  In addition to the rooms required to lodge participants, the group rented three additional rooms, which were stocked with “…liquor, Coors beer, chips and salsa, sandwiches, Mrs. Fields cookies and York Peppermint Patties…,” according to a December 17, 2009 article in The Wall Street Journal

In addition, a December 16, 2009 article on CBSNews.com reported that in August 2009 Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) traveled to Europe to visit with banking regulators and industry executives, costing taxpayers $70,000.  The senators, their wives, and aides managed to find time during the trip to tour the Rhine River and attend a heavy-metal music festival.

After constraints on privately-funded travel were instituted in 2005, members of Congress have increasingly turned to taxpayers to foot the bill for extensive and extravagant trips.  A Wall Street Journal analysis of travel records found that the reported costs of foreign travel in 2008 was $13 million – a 70 percent jump from 2005. 

There does not appear to be any legislative-related need to be out of the country so often.  Apparently considered just another perk of the job, taxpayer-funded travel needs to be re-evaluated by lawmakers, or the only trip they will be taking after the next election will be within their state or district, looking for another job. 

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