Friday, January 7, 2011

Al Kamen's In the Loop Guide to CODELS (Congressional Delegations) - Updated Version

See our list of Codels to Afghanistan in 2010 and the countries visited by congressional members every single year since 1993.

WaPo's Al Kamen is trying to help the newbies in Congress avoid snarky press coverage and just posted an updated  version of the official In the Loop Guide to Codels. Excerpted from post:

Rule No. 1: Try to travel to places that have a direct relationship to important foreign policy issues. In addition to such places as Pakistan, India, China and Russia, this would be Darfur and Haiti anytime, Gaza in August, or Waziristan (north or south) in the early spring when the fighting picks up.

Exception: Voters are becoming wise to the shallowness of lawmakers doing quickie trips to Afghanistan, having pictures taken with the troops from their districts - troops rounded up specially for the occasion - and given guided tours so they can thump their chests and say, "I've been to Kabul."
(Note: At least 10 CODELS visited Afghanistan in 2010. See list and links to slideshows below via US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)
Rule No. 2: Ditch the spouse. Spouses raise red flags for reporters. Reporters are no longer buying the dodge about spouses traveling "at no extra cost." Understaffed embassy personnel have to schedule separate events and provide vans, maybe security, guides and so forth for day trips, sightseeing and shopping. Given chronic understaffing at U.S. embassies, this is hardly what those folks need to be doing.

Corollary: On a generic "meetings with foreign leaders" trip, avoid lingering. Spouses tend to lengthen trips, with evenings devoted to receptions and dinners - as opposed to meeting with dissidents in hiding, with human rights advocates, with harassed religious leaders, with refugees.

Rule No. 3: Avoid going north in the summer, south in the winter. Never go anywhere in Italy, at any time, on the taxpayers' dime. European travel in general, especially in the early fall or in the spring, will raise eyebrows. Winter trips to the Caribbean are inherently suspect.

Rule No. 4: Do not go to various wonders of the world - Petra, the pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos, Iguazu Falls, the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat or African game parks. Ditto handicraft fairs.
(Note: See top destinations below for both the House and the Senate via the CRS)

Exception: There will be times when obligatory travel to bad places, or to funerals and inaugurations and such, will bring you near a primo tourist destination. The rule of reason governs. An "unavoidable" stop at St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday, for example, doesn't pass any laugh test.

Rule No. 5: Do not blow off intelligence briefings at the embassies. You are there, after all, to gather facts. Embassy folks may, or may not, have some.

Rule No. 6: Do not overload your military aircraft with the bargain booty - rugs, golf clubs, artifacts and such - that you hope to sneak in without regular customs inspection.

Read the whole thing here.

We have put together a list of Codels to Afghanistan in 2010 based on photos showing up in the Flickr photostreams of US Embassy Kabul (click on trip titles below to view slideshow in Flickr)

Coburn Codel | 2 Oct 2010
Senators Coburn, Hatch and Chambliss had a working dinner with several Cabinet Ministers at Ambassador Karl Eikenberry's residence.

Baird Codel | 25 Aug 2010 & 26 Aug 2010.
Representatives Brian Baird (D-WA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Bob Inglis (R-SC), paid a visit.

Levin and Reed | 10 Jul 2010 & 11 Jul 2010
Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) accompanied a delegation to Kabul and met with Afghan and American government officals.

Kissell Codel | 31 May 2010
Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.),Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.),Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) arrived in Kabul and had meetings with American and Afghan officals.

Carper Codel | April 2010
A delegation lead by Senator Carper which included Senator John Ensign, Senator Tom Udall, Senator Scott Brown and Repersenative Rob Wittman arrived in Kabul and met with Afghan and American officials.

Spratt Codel | 24 Jan 2010
A Congressional delegation led by Representative John Spratt (D-SC; 5th) which included, Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI; 1st), Rep Gene Taylor (D-MS; 4th), Rep Xavier Becerra (D-CA; 31st) and Rep Xavier Becerra (D-CA; 31st) arrived in Kabul Afghanistan Jan 23, 2010 and meet with U.S. Embassy officials.

Sanchez Codel | 19 Jan 2010
A delegation of Congress Women lead by Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) which included Jean Schmidt (R-OH), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), Dina Titus (D-NV) and Judy Chu (D-CA) toured Afghanistan. They met with U.S. Embassy Officials, Richard Holbrooke and U.S. Military personal. Their trip included a tour of the Bagram Air Field where they met with RC-South commanders.

Levin and Franken | 13 Jan 2010
Senators Levin and Franken visit Afghanistan to get a better understanding of how the Coalition and Afghan Security Forces' training is progressing.

McConnell Codel | 09 Jan 2010 & 10 Jan 2010
A delegation lead by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) which includes Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), Representative Michael N. Castle (DE/R-At Large) arrived in Kabul Afghanistan and took a tour of the Central Training Center (CTC) for the Afghan National Police.

McCain Codel | 07 Jan 2010
A delegation lead by Senator John McCain which included Gen McCrystal, Senator Joseph Lieberman, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry Senator John Thune and  Senator John Barrasso traveled to the Arghandab Valley in Kandahar, Afghanistan to meet with troops and commanders of both the U.S and Nato military along with the ANA and ANP.

Sorry, could not find any photos of Codels to Waziristan. We'll keep looking .... we did find an August 2008 visit to Southern Sudan by Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey (photos here), but not aware of any other recent Codels there.   

And while we were looking for something else today, we bumped into this CRS report on International Travel by Congress: Legislation in the 111th Congress, Background, and Potential Policy Options dated August 31, 2010.  Unfortunately, the report also says that "there is no single source that identifies all international travel undertaken by the House or Senate, and no means to identify the number of trips taken, destinations visited, travelers, total costs, or costs paid for by funds appropriated to government entities other than Congress." Although the CRS was unable to identify discrete trips, or the total number of visits to a destination, it was able to count the total number destinations visited from 1993-2010, the last 17 years:

Destinations Visited by Members of the House and House Staff in 15 or More Years Since 1993
(see Table A-4) 

Destination Years Visited
Belgium       17
Canada       17
China          17
Egypt          17
France        17
Germany     17
Hong Kong 17
Israel           17
Italy             17
Kenya         17

Destinations Visited by Senators or Senate Staff in 15 or More Years Since 1993
(see Table A-10)

Country Years Visited
Austria       17
Belgium      17
China         17
France       17
Germany    17
India          17
Israel         17
Italy           17
Japan         17
Jordan       17

The report (available here in PDF) includes dollar figures and more breakdowns by year/quarter, also includes a restatement  in 2010 of rules regarding the authorization by House Committee chairmen of international and domestic travel by Members and staff of the House.  Also a summary of four bills in Congress that went nowhere last year. 

But with the new folks in town anxious to slash the federal budget and the deficit -- here are four wonderful opportunities for the new Congress to yes -- walk it like you talk it. Excerpted from the CRS report dated August 2010:

H.R. 3036
Representative Walter B. Jones, Jr. introduced H.R. 3036, to direct the Secretary of Defense to determine and disclose the costs incurred in taking a Member, officer, or employee of Congress on a trip outside the United States so that such costs may be included in any report the Member, officer, or employee is required to file with respect to the trip under applicable law or rules of the House of Representatives or Senate, on June 25, 2009. No further action has been taken as of the date of this writing.

H.R. 4447
On January 13, 2010, Representative Timothy V. Johnson introduced H.R. 4447, Suspending Travel After Years of Pleasure Trips on Unwitting Taxpayers Act of 2010, or the STAY PUT Act of 2010. The measure would prohibit the use of appropriated funds to pay for official international travel by any Member, officer, or employee of the House until the Comptroller General studies and reports to the Speaker of the House, DOD, and Department of State (State). No further action has been taken as of the date of this writing.

H.R. 4983
Representative Mike Quigley introduced H.R. 4983, the Transparency in Government Act of 2010 on March 25, 2010. The bill would amend a number of House rules to increase disclosure and access to records of congressional activities. Regarding congressional international travel, section 102 of the measure would require that disclosure reports filed under House Rule X, clause 8(b)(3) to be posted on the website of the committee to which the report was submitted in a searchable, sortable, downloadable format within 48 hours of filing.  No further action has been taken as of the date of this writing.

H.R. 5957
H.R. 5957, the Congressional Foreign Travel Reform Act of 2010, was introduced by Representative Timothy V. Johnson on July 29, 2010. The measure would repeal current law governing the congressional use of foreign currency in conjunction with international travel, and establish new procedures. The House and Senate could obtain foreign currency to provide per diem allowances to Members and staff of the House and Senate who travel overseas in the course of their official duties, subject to the authorization of certain congressional officials.19 Local currency could be issued subject to a limitation of the greater of the equivalent of $75 per day, or the maximum per diem established for each country by the Department of State for employees of the United States Government.20 The measure would require Members and staff of the House to file statements before and after any international travel. At least 14 days prior to undertaking travel, the first statement would be required to include the following: (1) a description of how the travel relates to the Member’s or employee’s official duties; (2) a tentative itinerary for each day of the travel, including a list of
the locations to be visited, and any individuals to be met; (3) the names of any other individuals who are traveling with a House Member or staff; (4) the amount of the per diem requested for the travel, and whether the amount is greater than the standard per diem provided by the State Department; and (5) a description of the aircraft to be used for transportation for the travel, including a “best estimate of the costs of using such aircraft.” No further action has been taken as of the date of this writing.

Related item:
CRS: International Travel by Congress: Legislation in the 111th Congress, Background, and Potential Policy Options | August 31, 2010 (pdf)

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