Wednesday, April 25, 2012
R. Eric Petersen, Coordinator
Specialist in American National Government
Terrence L. Lisbeth
International travel by Members of Congress and their staff is an issue of long-standing interest among some members of the public, media outlets, and Members. Questions regarding the purposes and destinations of international travel by Congress frequently arise, as do questions about the ability to track the costs and benefits of such travel. 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. This report provides information and analysis on the use of foreign currency expended in support of congressional travel to international destinations that is paid for with appropriated funds and authorized by the House or Senate; on measures related to international travel by Congress introduced in the 111th and 112th Congresses; and on potential options for Congress related to international travel by Members and staff. This report does not provide data on travel costs borne by executive agencies that support congressional travel, as those data are not publicly available.
Under current law, the use of foreign currency in conjunction with international travel by Congress must be disclosed. Those data were tabulated, and suggest that the number of disclosures filed in both chambers and expenditures have grown since 1993, but not in a consistent manner suggesting a readily identifiable pattern of activity. It cannot be determined from available data whether the increase is attributable to increased travel or use of foreign currency, decreased utilization of privately sponsored travel, or change in the manner in which the House or Senate document their use of foreign currency through the disclosure process.
In the 112th Congress, legislation has been introduced to study and change the manner in which such travel is authorized, funded, and disclosed. Measures include H.R. 2340, introduced by Representative Mike Quigley; H.R. 638 and H.R. 882, introduced by Representative Timothy V. Johnson; and S. 429, introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill.
Date of Report: March 29, 2012
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R41388
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