Intrepid Lawmakers to Brave the Alpine Front

Snowboarding is among the attractions in the Bavarian Alps, where a large congressional delegation plans a stop.
Snowboarding is among the attractions in the Bavarian Alps, where a large congressional delegation plans a stop. (By Diether Endlicher -- Associated Press)
By Al Kamen
Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hurry, hurry, hurry. Congress will begin its 2009 travel season in earnest this weekend with two spectacular codels -- trips for House congressional delegations -- that are not to be missed.

On Saturday, Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), chairman of the House delegation to NATO's parliamentary assembly, and his wife will lead a delegation of 13 lawmakers -- plus 10 spouses -- on a fine nine-day jaunt starting at NATO's headquarters in Brussels.

Before you start scoffing about how this hardly compares to Tanner's post-election delegation to Valencia and Rome in November, we would point out that the next stop is, yes, the City of Lights, Paris, where one could have a nice late Valentine's Day moment.

From there we move on to Vienna for a little Sacher torte and then to review NATO's strategy to defend the Bavarian Alps, stopping in the lovely ski center of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, with its breathtaking views.

The huge number of members, spouses and staffers, plus military escorts, will require taking one of the bigger military jets, but we're told these trips are an important use of taxpayer money.

The delegation is scheduled to include Democratic Reps. Ben Chandler (Ky.); Bart Gordon (Tenn.); Baron P. Hill (Ind.) Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.); Kendrick B. Meek (Fla.); Charlie Melancon (La.); Dennis Moore (Kan.) Mike Ross (Ark.) and David Scott (Ga.). Republican Reps. John Boozman (Ark.); Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.) and Jeff Miller (Fla.) are also scheduled to be going.

If working on NATO matters is not for you, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is leading a delegation to Europe next week for some important meetings in -- where else? -- the Eternal City, Rome. Details are sketchy so far, but we're hearing that there's a meeting with Pope Benedict himself. (Hey, ask him about that Holocaust-denier guy if you get a chance.) Pelosi is apparently going to get an award from an Italian legislative group -- she's huge over there -- and then maybe do just a bit of NATO stuff. There may be some other stops.

High Places, Part 2

Rep. Jerry F. Costello (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on aviation, said at a hearing yesterday that the Obama administration has "made an offer to the person it wants to see as administrator" of the Federal Aviation Administration, our colleague Sholnn Freeman reports. That person is presumed to be Randy Babbitt, a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association. That may, in turn, mean that former FAA chief Jane Garvey is in line for deputy secretary of transportation.

High Places, Part 3

There's buzz that Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske will become President Obama's drug czar. Kerlikowske told his commanders that he expects to take a law enforcement position in the new administration, with the likely scenario being head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a Cabinet-level post, according to the Seattle Times.

Kerlikowske, 59, has headed Seattle's 1,800-officer force since 2000, and previously led the police departments in Buffalo and the Florida cities of Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie. During the Clinton administration, he was deputy director of the Justice Department community-oriented policing division, where he developed a close relationship with then-Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., now the attorney general.

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