WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Congress is keeping Andrews Air Force base plenty busy this year ferrying lawmakers all over the globe at taxpayers’ expense. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi took his wife, nine Democrats and two Republicans - Reps. Dan Lungren of California and Mike Rogers of Alabama - on a whirlwind tour of the Caribbean last week. After stops in Honduras and Mexico, they stopped in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the delegation stayed at the five-star Caneel Bay resort.
In a separate trip to the Caribbean last week, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York squired his wife and four Democratic members to Grenada and Trinidad.
All told, the military flew at least 13 congressional delegations to various destinations during the Easter recess -- at an estimated rate of $10,000 or more per flying hour.
The congressional delegation trips, known as CODELs, are paid for by taxpayers. They are supposed to be directly related to members’ official duties, and House guidelines also stipulate that delegations include members of both parties to qualify for military planes -- a requirement that Speaker Nancy Pelosi waived for Engel’s group and two other delegations.
“There was a good faith effort made to include Republican members,” a Pelosi spokesman said. “For one reason or another, that did not work.”