Congress scours the globe in search of facts

August 15, 2012

A Portuguese sailing boat in Lisbon (Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images)

We’ve written about two lame-duck senators — Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) heading to five European capitals to try to help out the euro.

That group, which returned Friday, included another lame-ducker — actually now the lamest of all — Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), who resigned Tuesday and has already landed a job here with California-based law and lobbying firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

But there are many other fine trips abroad this month. Lame-duck House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), who’s retiring this year after 15 terms, is headed back from an 11-day, one-member congressional delegation (codel) to Southeast Asia, with stops in Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Burma and Hong Kong.

He’s got three or so staffers with him, traveling commercial to Asia and then military jet within the region. Not the best time of year for travel in that region. Apparently rains a bit. (But lame-duck travel is a no-no after the end of the lame-duck session in December, so you go when you can.)

Dreier’s been meeting with top government and opposition folks as well as U.S., international and local business leaders, talking about trade agreements and human rights and such. You might say, “What’s the point? He’s out in four months.” But that doesn’t mean he can’t work with all those business and government people when he’s at a private company, does it?

Former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who’s leaving the Senate after 36 years, is on his nearly annual trip to Russia , Ukraine — where he’s a rock star — and Georgia, checking in with opposition groups, pushing for more democracy and urging fewer nukes and bio-chem weapons — much as he has always done.

Aside from a stop at a conference in Belgium, some of these bio-chem sites in the former Soviet Union are not particularly attractive. However, Georgia’s central public health laboratory is being renamed in his honor.

Meanwhile, we’re hearing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who’s not a lame duck, is on a two-week House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence trip to Europe and the Middle East.

Nunes wouldn’t discuss the trip while it’s in progress. An aide said he flew commercial to the Middle East — most likely then milair “in theater,” as they say — and the trip was “mostly related to the conflict in Syria.”

We’re thinking that means likely stops in Israel and Jordan, and maybe Greece and other places. He’s also scheduled to stop at the U.S. European Command in Germany on the way back. It’s unclear if other members or spouses are going.

Since Nunes is of Portuguese descent, you’d think there’d be at least a little time in Lisbon for maybe a quick lunch at Bonjardim — best spit-roasted chicken you will ever have — right downtown near the Praca dos Restauradores, followed by custard at Pasteis de Belem

Finally, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) is said to be leading a large codel — we’re hearing as many as 10 members — on a 10-day jaunt to South Sudan and other countries in Africa. There may be stops in Kenya, Morocco and Spain as well.

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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