« Breaking Bad, Wire-Style | Main | On teaching loads »

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Foreign Travel by Members of Congress (Part II)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been writing an article on the subject of international diplomacy by members of Congress, with an emphasis on congressional delegations (“CODELs”) to foreign countries. Information about CODEL practice has been pretty limited, so one of my purposes has been simply to provide a more complete account of how frequently CODELs travel overseas, who is participating, where they go, and what they do when they get there. To do so, I collected information from the State Department cables that Wikileaks released to the public in 2010-11, many of which provide detailed accounts of meetings between members of Congress and foreign governments. I also collected information from official reports on publicly and privately financed congressional travel. Some of the reports were published in the Congressional Record pursuant to federal statute; others were published in accordance with House and Senate ethics rules. The data is quite voluminous, so I focused only on travel that happened in 2009—the most recent year for which the available information is the most complete. Counting each country visit by each legislator as one trip, and adding the data from the various sources, I came up with the following.

A total of 420 federal legislators, or approximately 79% of the combined membership of the House and Senate, completed slightly more than 2000 trips abroad in 2009. Members of the House were responsible for 84.5% of this travel, for an average of 4.0 trips per member, while members of the Senate were responsible for 15.5%, for an individual average of 3.2 trips. Legislators from both parties participated in comparable measure: Democrats averaged 4.09 trips per legislator, while Republicans averaged 3.56.

Legislators engaged in diplomacy unevenly. While some never went abroad even once, fifty-four legislators made at least 10 foreign trips during the year; the most frequent fliers were Eni Faleomavaega (24 trips) (D-AS), Jim McDermott (21) (D-WA), Adam Smith (17) (D-WA), Gabrielle Giffords (16) (D-AZ), Sheila Jackson-Lee (16) (D-TX), Lindsey Graham (15) (R-SC), Gregory Meeks (15) (D-NY), Jeff Miller (15) (R-FL), Solomon Ortiz (15) (D-TX), Dana Rohrabacher (15) (R-CA), and Joe Wilson (15) (R-SC). By comparison, Secretary Clinton made 51 trips to foreign countries over the same period.

Legislators traveled widely. CODELs visited at least 117 countries in 2009. The most frequent destinations were Afghanistan (139 trips), Israel (134), Kuwait (119), United Arab Emirates (86), Germany (73), Iraq (72), Pakistan (53), Jordan (49), Belgium (47), and Italy (47). An overwhelming majority of this travel was publicly funded.

Finally, members of congressional committees with jurisdiction over foreign affairs and related matters were more likely to participate in CODELs than other legislators. The tables below contain information for the committees with the highest and lowest member-trip averages.

Table 1 – House Committee Travel (2009)

Committee

Total Member Trips

Trips Per Member

Foreign Affairs

324

6.89

Armed Services

404

6.62

Intelligence

134

6.09

Standards of Official Conduct

56

5.60

Education and Labor

224

4.57

. . .

. . .

. . .

House Administration

21

2.33

Table 2 – Senate Committee Travel (2009)

Committee

Total Member Trips

Trips Per Member

Foreign Relations

105

5.53

Armed Services

119

4.58

Judiciary

79

4.16

Homeland Security

62

3.65

Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry

74

3.52

. . .

. . .

. . .

Veterans’ Affairs

20

1.33

In my next post, I’ll offer a few observations about why I think these results are significant, and why they raise some interesting separation of powers questions.

Posted by Ryan Scoville on December 13, 2012 at 12:30 AM in Constitutional thoughts, International Law | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c6a7953ef017ee63349f0970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Foreign Travel by Members of Congress (Part II):

Comments

Do these numbers include staff?

Posted by: jt | Dec 15, 2012 1:54:14 PM

No, they don't.

Posted by: Ryan Scoville | Dec 15, 2012 2:09:49 PM

Post a comment