If you thought the end of Abamoff meant the end of free vacations for Congresmen, think again.
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.
Thompson's office said he toured the Caribbean because he now chairs the Homeland Security Committee and wanted to see vacation hot spots to "examine border security and port security." Three other members of the delegation also brought along their spouses.
At the Caneel Bay resort, where room rates reach $1,100 per night, the spokeswoman said Thompson and his wife paid the "government rate." But, according to the reservations department, Caneel Bay doesn't "offer any government rates."
The Caribbean trip led by Engel, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, explored the "best practices for emergency disaster relief" and energy policy, according to his office.