Senator or representative absent? Look abroad

Can’t find your senators or congressmen this week? Could be they’ve left the country over the recent recess, looking for those elusive facts overseas.

In these days of exceptional congressional outrage over the GSA’s lavish spending in Vegas, we’re in what might be called “heightened scrutiny” mode on congressional travel — looking for those hideously expensive trips with spouses on military jets to places such as China or the Galapagos.

We’ve been able to find six overseas trips by 14 lawmakers in the past week or so.

Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, led the largest group — five senators and spouses — on a 10-day trip to Africa.

The delegation, which included Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Kent Conrad (D-S.D.), traveled miljet to Namibia, Malawi. South Africa, Botswana, Morocco and Cote D’Ivoire, looking over U.S. funding for child labor and global health programs.

We understand Harkin was able to break away for a little game drive (on his own dime) and that perhaps a couple others also took just a moment or two to commune with the lions and elephants and giraffes.

Senate and House intelligence committee chairs and ranking members — Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) have just returned from Afghanistan.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was off solo on a part-commercial, part-miljet trip to Lithuania, Jordan and Lebanon, and retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) went solo to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel — he was in the Holy Land on a personal trip last month — meeting with leaders there and talking to Syrian refugees.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), with a few staffers, flew commercial to the Middle East and then took miljets “in theatre,” as they say, for safety. He stopped in Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

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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