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Lawmakers plan to rough it on codel to Philippines

A family rebuilds their house among the rubble of destroyed homes in Tacloban, Philippines on November 21, 2013. More than 4,000 people were killed and up to 4.4 million displaced when typhoon Haiyan packing some of the strongest winds ever recorded by a storm made landfall. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSENODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images A family rebuilds their house among the rubble of destroyed homes in Tacloban, Philippines. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Some codels (that’s shorthand for  congressional delegations traveling abroad) are cushy affairs. Others are a little iffier.

Take the jaunt to the storm-ravaged Philippines that a group of lawmakers are planning for later this week. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who is leading the delegation, says they’re flying commercial into Manila, then hitching rides on military flights packed with humanitarian supplies to check out the areas of the country most damaged by the typhoon.

“We’ll shoehorn in,” he says. He’s warned his colleagues attending the trip, Reps. Al Green (D-Texas) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), that the trip will be a rough one. They apparently weren’t surprised.

“I told them don’t expect to sleep,” Smith says. “Which they knew — they’re seasoned.”

The group had initially planned the trip without any military assistance, relying entirely on non-governmental organizations in the area.  The nearly 13,000 military personnel there are pretty busy, after all — but the DoD caught wind of the trip and offered the lawmakers some space among the cargo. (Not exactly first class, but it’ll do.)

Smith says the visit, in which the members of Congress will meet with local government officials and assess the state of relief efforts, is an important step in monitoring the aftermath of the storm and the effectiveness of relief efforts. Particularly of concern, he says, is the potential after such a large-scale disaster for human traffickers to take advantage of refugees.

He’ll hold hearings and brief colleagues when he returns.

Presumably, after he catches a few winks.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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