For congressional delegation, it’ll be Independence Day around the world

Columnist

Stuck for something to do over the Fourth? Has your spouse been complaining you two never go anywhere interesting?

Then, to paraphrase “Saturday Night Live’s” ex-city correspondent “Stefon,” you must quickly sign up to join a fine congressional delegation (codel) heading out Friday for a fascinating nine-day trip to Turkey, Azerbaijan and Hungary.

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

First stop is Istanbul for the annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Last year, Loop fans may recall, it was in Monte Carlo — and only a couple folks went, because, well, jetting off to Monaco didn’t sound like a good idea in these troubled financial days.

(The organizers blamed the Loop for the attendance falloff, but we plead the Fifth.)

This year it’s business-class-only military jet, stunning service and three Navy escorts to smooth the way. There’s also a physician on board just in case you’re not feeling ship-shape.

Disclosure: The tentative schedule — for those lawmakers who choose to follow it — calls for a few too many substantive meetings to give this jaunt a full Loop Four-Star rating.

Still, Istanbul is a fascinating place. And for spouses — all women so far — the schedule includes a visit to the Sabanci Vocational Institute of Design, “to include a fashion show of the students’ and teachers’ collection” and an “opportunity to buy designer samples.” That evening, everyone’s off for a boat tour on the Bosporus.

Monday’s “Accompanying Persons” schedule is breathtaking: the stunning Blue Mosque, the St. Sofia Museum and wonderful Topkapi Palace. Lunch is at the Yildiz Restaurant, where there will be an opportunity to buy handmade porcelain.

Tuesday night, July 2, there’s a pre-Fourth of July dinner hosted by Ambassador Frank Ricciardone. If the fireworks aren’t exciting enough, you might want to head down to Taksim Square to see if things have settled down. (Take wet handkerchiefs for the possible tear gas.)

The next day, July 3, after a lovely evening at the Four Seasons in Baku, Azerbaijan, a country with a sketchy human rights record, there’s a second pre-Fourth of July dinner at the embassy. Then on the actual Fourth of July there’s a “cultural tour of the Old City” for everyone before our hardy band heads off to a day in lovely Budapest — where the Hungarian government’s been slacking on democracy — before heading home.

An early manifest had GOP Sens. Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Michael Crapo (Idaho) and GOP Reps. Christopher Smith (N.J.), Robert Aderholt (Ala.) Doc Hastings (Wash.) and Tom Cole (Okla.) signed up to go, with all but Cole taking a spouse. They were taking seven staffers as well.

Unclear what size plane they are taking. The back-of-the-envelope estimate would put airfare cost at around a half-million dollars. But seats may still be had. And some of those who initially signed up may drop out — making room for you!

A fat fundraising Tuesday

Congress is slithering out of town Friday, with members up for reelection in 2014 in dire need of recovering from an end-of-the-quarter fundraising frenzy.

Here’s a sampling of events just on Tuesday that we got invites to. (Donation range is from $1,000 to $2,500.)

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) hosted an 8 a.m. breakfast at Bistro Cacao while Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) followed with a breakfast at the Monocle just a half-hour later.

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) hosted a “summer luncheon.” Rep. Tom Price (R) and others from the Georgia delegation planned their annual Georgia Peach Party from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Then there was Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor’s excellent margarita party at 6 p.m., with time left to stagger over to a Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) event on the Hill and to drop by another one for Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) was hosting an event at Nats Park for the 7:05 p.m. game against the D-Backs. (Gio on the mound.)

Of course, checks were a fine substitute for those who couldn’t hit every event.

Pritzker confirmed

The Senate voted 97 to 1 on Tuesday to confirm billionaire Chicago businesswoman and Obama 2008 campaign finance chair Penny Pritzker to be secretary of commerce.

The lone opposing vote was cast by the Senate’s only democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “We need a secretary of commerce who will represent the interests of working Americans and their families, not simply the interests of CEOs and large corporations,” Sanders said in a statement after the vote, adding that Pritzker was on the board of “one of the most anti-worker hotel chains in this country.”

Tuesday’s long-expected Senate action leaves three Obama Cabinet nominees pending, though Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, nominated for transportation secretary, may be confirmed later this week.

Two other nominees — Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator Gina McCarthy, picked to be EPA administrator, and Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, nominated to be secretary of labor — are looking at votes sometime in July, before the Senate recesses from July 28 to Sept. 9.

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