Senate staff on 13-day Asia trade trip

March 26, 2013

The Great Barrier Reef off Australia's Queensland state. (Anonymous/AP)

This is not a codel, or congressional delegation, but a staffdel — by the staff of the Senate Finance Committee. And we’re told they’re flying commercial, no spouses or significant others.

Still, the 13-day jaunt could be a little pricey — a government fare round-trip to Hanoi, for example, is around $3,500 per person. And the government per diem, if they spend equal time in each country, would come to about $60,000.

This is well worth the money, we’re told. The bipartisan — 10 D’s and six R’s — group is preparing for the upcoming debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement being negotiated between Washington and 10 other countries. A very big deal.

And the group is going to meet with senior government officials and trade and industry leaders in the three countries. “Working on international trade negotiations requires international travel,” a committee aide noted. Someone’s got to do it.

So it’s just work and more work for the intrepid group, which was scheduled to include: Bruce Hirsh, Hun Quach, Chelsea Thomas, Greg Kalbaugh, Jonathan Cordone, Bill Ghent, Erin Gulick, Ann Woods Hawks, Mark Libell, Jennifer McCloskey, Katherine Mongé, Paul Poteet, Amber Sechrist, Chris Slevin, Chris Sullivan and Eric Toy.

No time for the Great Barrier Reef, the ”real” land of Mordor (Tongariro National Park ) or Halong Bay? Hmmm..

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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