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In The Loop
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 11/18/2011

Harry Reid’s pricey China trip

Loop Fans may recall Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spectacular trip to China in April, the one where he and nine other senators — Democrats Dick Durbin, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, Jeff Merkley and Michael Bennet along with Republicans Richard Shelby, Mike Enzi and Johnny Isakson — toured the Middle Kingdom.

That was the trip, we soon found out, that required the intrepid group, including spouses and staff, to spend an afternoon in Macau, China’s gambling mecca, before heading off to Beijing and Xian (the Terra Cotta Warriors city) and beyond.
Sen. Harry Reid tells Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan (right) he and his colleagues have been eating up a storm in China. (Nghan Guan - AFP/Getty Images)

It was just constant toil, so much so that, a few days into the week-long tour Reid joked to a Chinese official that after “having spent two days in Hong Kong and Macau eating as we did, we are all heavyweights.”

Now we’ve learned a bit about how much this grand junketry cost taxpayers.

According to the Congressional Record, the per diem and “Miscellaneous” expenses came to about $66,000.

That figure doesn’t include the “transportation” costs of the military jet flying over and back — the Pentagon bills around $10,000 an hour for the larger planes.

So figure a round-trip to China would be 30 hours in the air, the bill for the plane — paid out of a special slush-fund for these things — would be about $300,000. And that doesn’t include various lengthy flights within China — which is, after all, a big place.

Then there are the substantial indirect costs of countless embassy staff on the ground in preparing for and then guiding the large delegation.

Readers may also recall a fine ten-day jaunt to Europe in August by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and ranking Democrat Norm Dicks (Wash.) and other members (and spouses and staff) to meet with top officials and talk about military operations and expenditures there. This group was going to Britain, Germany, Austria and possibly Italy.

No word yet on what that trip cost taxpayers. But we did come across another Appropriations Committee codel, this one led by “Chairman Emeritus” Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) who led a group on an excellent weeklong journey to France and Italy in early June.

The group included Republican Reps. Jack Kingston, Kay Granger, Tom Cole, John Carter and Ander Crenshaw and Democrats Norm Dicks — again in Italy? — Marcy Kaptur and Sanford Bishop racked up more than $65,000 in per diem and “other” costs — not including that all-important, business-class-seating, military jet.

They had to go to France for the 67th anniversary of D-Day, then to Air Force base in Italy to see how the Libya operation — based there — was going and to visit a military hospital in Germany.

But the plane “was diverted due to inclement weather and low fuel,” we were told, so they couldn’t make it to the anniversary ceremony and had to scrub the hospital trip.

Oh, no. So the week-long trip meant just going to France and then the base and then visiting the U.S. embassy in Rome. We can only hope they had enough time and energy to grab a fine dinner (the lobster medallions and truffles are said to be superb) — at nearby La Terrazza.

Many codels — these are the last great bipartisan conspiracy — include at least one stop in an unpleasant place. Thus we have House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, joined by Republican John Mica and Democrats Rosa DeLauro, Leonard Boswell and William Pascrell heading to Afghanistan in March with but a one-day stop in Italy en route.

They only spent a night in Afghanistan, but it must have been a tough one, because they were obliged to follow it with three more nights in Italy, with a Libya briefing at the base in Vicenza and, of course, a stop in Rome.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 11/18/2011

 
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