Two groups of lawmakers are Asia-bound over the House break

Al Kamen
Columnist May 15, 2012

The House is off next week, and that means, even in an election year, members will be required to travel in search of elusive facts.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is leading a group taking off Friday for a week in Taiwan and South Korea, looking at three days in Seoul and three in Taipei.

You’ll get to Taipei in time for the inaugural banquet of newly reelected President Ma Ying-jeou. There’ll be meetings with Ma and other top officials, talking about China, trade and the controversial sale of F-16s, including the new model the administration has balked at providing.

Then it’s off to South Korea to meet with President Lee Myung-bak and others, visit the DMZ — great photo ops — and talk about dealing with the lunatic North Koreans. Others tentatively going include GOP Reps. Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.), Jean Schmidt (Ohio), Dan Burton (Ind.) and Jim Gerlach (Pa.) and Democratic Rep. Brad Miller (N.C.).

This is not a particularly Loop-recommended trip. Ros-Lehtinen runs a pretty tight ship. And while spouses are going along — as well as some staff — there will be endless meetings.

A much better bet is a 10-day jaunt, also leaving Friday, led by House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.), to China, South Korea and India.

This is a “bipartisan, fact-finding mission,” a committee spokesman e-mailed, “to learn global solutions that could increase America’s competitiveness in the classroom and the workplace.”

This sounds very good. The Taj, the Great Wall. . .

“Members will also seek a greater understanding of the region as it relates to trade policy and our broader national security,” the e-mail said, “through roundtables and meetings with cabinet-level officials” plus “visits to schools, universities, and business centers.” Excellent. No square tables.

We could not be told who was on board, because of “security” concerns. But we’re hearing others who might be going include GOP Reps. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), Phil Roe (Tenn.), Erik Paulsen (Minn.) and Tim Walberg (Mich.) and Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre (N.C.), plus spouses and staff.

There are still some seats left. Sign up now!

Sperling’s dirty laundry

A high-school-aged Gene Sperling should have known he was destined for a career in politics. Even back then, he delighted in dealing with other people’s dirty laundry.

In a new video for an initiative to encourage summer jobs and work opportunities for young people, the director of the National Economic Council fondly recalls his first job — as a ball boy and all-around janitor (paging Newt Gingrich!) for the University of Michigan’s basketball team. He reveled, it seems, in the grubbier aspects of the job, including handling the players’ unmentionables.

“We got to sweep the court at halftime, and at the end of every game we got to go into the locker room and throw their dirty socks and uniforms into the laundry bin,” he recalls. “We thought all of these were way cool.”

Way. Then he launches into some TMI. “It was years later that I started to understand why my father and his friends would kind of smile when we would brag about throwing away their [the players’] sweaty, dirty underwear,” Sperling says.

Sperling goes on to advise kids that it’s not smarts that get you ahead as a young worker or an intern. Hard work impresses, he says. It’s “did you hustle, did you do everything, did you have a great attitude?” he says.

Good advice for laundresses everywhere.

Joe, somewhat on the go

Keeping an eye on the old Joe-mentum — the campaign phrase that outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) used when he ran for vice president as a Democrat in 2000. He’s not traveling nearly as much as he did then, but he’s on the road a lot.

When last we checked, Lieberman was heading to Israel at the end of December on a one-member congressional delegation. He and his wife, Hadassah, stopped in the Holy Land, and then he and two aides went on in a military plane to Tunisia and Libya.

We’ve been waiting since then to see what the one-senator congressional delegation (or codel) cost taxpayers. Now we’ve got the numbers.

The commercial flights alone by Lieberman and aides Vance Serchuk and Margaret Goodlander, according to the Senate’s quarterly foreign travel report released Thursday, cost about $28,700. (Sounds like business class.) Add another $5,000 in per-diem and “miscellaneous” costs noted in the report.

Then there’s the miljet they used to get to Tunisia and Libya — which is pretty much the only way to get around in that area. Those planes, assuming they took a real small plane, are billed out by the Pentagon at $3,000 an hour.

Lieberman, who decided against running for reelection in what looked to be a tough race, has made at least two more visits to Israel and the Middle East since that trip. He took a personal trip the second week of April and then a solo codel to Lebanon and Israel that began at the end of April.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/ intheloop; Twitter: @InTheLoopWP

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