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Senate Sets Record for Travel Costs

Jones noted that "the Foreign Relations Committee is responsible for overseeing the foreign policy agencies and agenda of the U.S. government and foreign travel is essential to its mission. It is impossible to effectively assess whether the United States is fulfilling its foreign policy objectives without seeing the effects of our policies and getting a firsthand account of what's going on [on] the ground. ... You can't evaluate the most effective ways for the United States to aid the people of Egypt and Tunisia or investigate alleged human rights violations in Burma recent trips by committee staff from a desk in Washington."

The Senate Intelligence Committee also reported high travel costs, spending about $815,000 during the year, though the destinations or details about the committee's trips are not disclosed.

The Appropriations Committee reported expenses of about $600,000 in 2010. As the year drew to a close, the committee spent more than $125,000 to send staffers to locations that included Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Germany, Italy and Djibouti.

The expenses that show up in the Congressional Record are typically commercial airfare and per diems used to cover on-the-ground costs such as meals and lodging.

The Senate discloses travel for all committees in a single report each quarter, making it relatively easy to tally costs. In the House, each committee publishes reports on its own and on no apparent schedule, making it much more difficult to assemble a full-year tally.

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