Twenty House and Senate members will accompany President Obama on this week's trip to Africa, according to White House officials, the latest sign of the White House's effort to build a closer rapport with Congress.
The group -- which includes 19 Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) -- will be evenly divided between the outbound and return flight. Flake and two of his colleagues on the Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee on African affairs, ranking member Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), will join seven members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday night's flight to Nairobi. The Democratic House members include Karen Bass (Calif.), G.K. Butterfield (N.C.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.) and Terri Sewell (Ala.)
On the return flight from Ethiopia, the president will host 10 CBC members: Democratic Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), Marcia Fudge (Ohio), Al Green (Tex.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.), Robin Kelly (Ill.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), Donald Payne (N.J.), Cedric Richmond (La.) and Bennie Thompson (Miss.).
Asked Wednesday about why the president was bringing along such a large congressional contingent to Kenya and Ethiopia, his national security adviser Susan Rice told reporters, "Well, obviously we want to strengthen and sustain what I’ve referred to repeatedly as a strong bipartisan consensus around support for Africa, Africa’s development, peace and security there."
Rice added that last month the administration was focused on renewing the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade bill that received overwhelming support in the House and Senate. "But obviously we have many, many issues that are important that we need Congress’s support on -- legislation that will support and codify some of the most significant initiatives, including in the health and agriculture and power sectors, as well as we have a nominee on the Hill that very much needs to be confirmed for USAID administrator," she said.