How Congress Spends $13m a Year on TravelS

And that doesn't include the cost of their military jets. Or domestic trips. They, and their spouses, are not skimping on the mini-bar. Or anything else. Massages! $52 whisky! Three extra hotel rooms for storing sandwiches!

A Wall Street Journal investigation reveals some interesting things — especially about the 'fiscal conservatives' whose selective conservatism (it doesn't encompass defense, but does apply to healthcare reform) also excludes, say, $40 each on scones and jam on a trip to England. All the representatives bring spouses and aides. Here are some highlights:

  • Republicans Richard Shelby of Alabama and John Cornyn of Texas went to Europe in August, for just over five days, to discuss regulatory reform of the banking industry. Their pleasure trips included one, in Germany, to a heavy metal festival. The total cost, for the two men, their spouses and aides, was $70,000.
  • A delegation of 12 members of Congress went to Scotland to attend a NATO conference last month (although most of them left halfway through the conference itself). As well as rooms for sleeping:

    ...the 12 members of the House of Representatives rented their hotel's fireplace-equipped presidential suite and two adjacent rooms. The hotel cleared out the beds and in their place set up a bar, a snack room and office space. The three extra rooms — stocked with liquor, Coors beer, chips and salsa, sandwiches, Mrs. Fields cookies and York Peppermint Patties — cost a total of about $1,500 a night. They were rented for five nights.

    The rooms were collectively referred to as the 'control room'. Here's their explanation for why it was necessary:

    Lawmakers and aides say a control room is necessary to provide work space, meeting rooms and easy access to American-style food.

    Which makes it odd that the Representatives had dinner at one of the swankiest restaurants in town, Rhubarb (dish pictured above), where dishes include "grouse with sauerkraut and prunes with Armagnac for $54 and a 12-ounce Chateaubriand steak with béarnaise sauce and Madeira jus, for two, at $106." Their daily stipend for food was $118, so they must have eaten frugally.

    The full cost of the short trip is not yet available, say the Journal. But the cost of seven previous trips to NATO events for Rep. John Tanner, conservative Blue Dog Democrat of Tennessee, and his hangers-on is about $575,000.

Hypocrisy in politics. Whatever next.