Congress flies to rescue the Euro


Protesting contract workers on top of the Propylae temple at the Acropolis. (John Kolesidis/Reuters)

Time to head over to talk to the finance ministers and central bank heads of what some call the PIIGS — Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain — the most troubled economies there.

We know what you’re thinking. But Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.) insists “no side trips, this is business.” They’ll be moving quickly, he said, leaving Saturday and returning Friday. About a country a day.

The delegation includes Sens.Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.). Some spouses and staff will be aboard, along with Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for Europe, Chris Smart.

There have been briefings from Treasury and CIA officials, Conrad said, and he’s meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner before taking off. The journey is important, Conrad said, because the euro-zone economic crisis is “weakening our recovery.”

So, since Conrad and Snowe are both leaving the Senate in a few months, this isn’t what one wag called the “Retiree Junket” and another dubbed the “Swan Song Codel?”

No, Conrad said. “Important decisions will have to be made” on these issues before the end of the year.

Okay. But it’s still Europe on a miljet. No better way to travel.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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