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Text of the Congressional Foreign Travel Reform Act of 2011

This bill was introduced on March 2, 2011, in a previous session of Congress, but was not enacted. The text of the bill below is as of Mar 2, 2011 (Introduced).

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Source: GPO

I

112th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 882

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

March 2, 2011

introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on House Administration, and in addition to the Committee on Rules, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILL

To require that any local currencies used to provide per diems to Members and employees of Congress for official foreign travel for a fiscal year be obtained by Congress and paid for using funds appropriated for salaries and expenses of Congress for the fiscal year, to enhance the disclosure of information on official foreign travel of Members, officers, and employees of the House of Representatives, and for other purposes.

1.

Short Title; Findings

(a)

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Congressional Foreign Travel Reform Act of 2011.

(b)

Findings

Congress finds the following:

(1)

The 56-year-old Mutual Security Act governs the current procedures and reporting requirements associated with the expending of foreign currencies for foreign travel by members of Congress and their staffs.

(2)

A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) memorandum finds that “there are no requirements regarding the disclosure of international travel by Members of Congress or their staffs that contain records of all international travel that might be taken.”.

(3)

This memorandum also finds that—

(A)

the current travel disclosure requirements may be of limited utility when trying to assess the amount Congress spends on foreign travel;

(B)

some foreign travel disclosures “… identify annual expenditures for an entity, rather than quarterly,” as is required by the law;

(C)

some disclosures contain “… typographical and mathematics errors”;

(D)

the current disclosure requirements for Congressional foreign travel “… might raise questions about the accuracy of reported destinations, participants or expenditures”; and

(E)

the current reporting requirements for Congressional foreign travel “… may reduce the suitability and reliability” of the following data: “number of trips taken, number of congressional travelers, destinations and the number of times a destination was visited, purposes of travel, benefits of travel and the extent of expenditures for congressional travel.”.

(4)

In April 2010 Roll Call reported that these travel “… accommodations are made by the State Department and billed back to a government account that automatically refills itself and has no spending limit attached.”.

(5)

In March 2010 the Wall Street Journal reported that while congressional rules require any unused per diem received for congressional travel must be paid back, this rule is rarely followed.

(6)

The “Questions and Answers” section of the Official Foreign Travel Guide for the U.S. Congress advises Members of Congress that they “… may keep any ‘excess’ funds” from a per diem allowance.

(7)

The CRS memorandum finds that from the only public available records on Congressional foreign travel, the House of Representatives went from spending $1,557,162 on foreign travel in 1994 to $9,303,709 in 2009, and that the amount the House has spent on travel has nearly doubled since 2006. Furthermore, these amounts do not take into account the use of military aircraft.

(8)

In June 2010 Roll Call reported that “Members of Congress routinely fail to report millions of dollars’ worth of costs … on foreign trips”, and that the “total spent on foreign travel has skyrocketed in the past decade.”.

2.

Requiring Congress to Obtain and Pay For Local Currencies Used to Provide Per Diems to Members and Employees of Congress on Official Foreign Travel

(a)

Obtaining and Paying for Local Currency Per Diems for Members and Employees on Official Foreign Travel

(1)

In general

The House of Representatives and Senate may obtain local currencies of foreign nations for the purpose of providing a per diem allowance to a Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives or Senate who is on official foreign travel, if the individual obtains an authorization under paragraph (2) to receive such an allowance.

(2)

Authorization described

An individual wishing to receive a per diem allowance under paragraph (1) shall obtain an authorization—

(A)

from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, in the case of a Member, officer, or employee of the House;

(B)

from the chairman of a standing or select committee of the House of Representatives, in the case of a member or employee of that committee;

(C)

from the President of the Senate, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the majority leader of the Senate, or the minority leader of the Senate, in the case of a Member, officer, or employee of the Senate;

(D)

from the chairman of a standing, select, or special committee of the Senate, in the case of a member or employee of that committee or of an employee of a member of that committee; and

(E)

from the chairman of a joint committee of the Congress, in the case of a member or employee of that committee.

(3)

Limit on amount

The amount of local currency provided for the use of an individual under this subsection may not exceed—

(A)

the equivalent of $75 per day per person; or

(B)

the maximum per diem allowance established under the authority of subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code, for employees of the United States Government while traveling in a foreign country,

whichever is greater, exclusive of the actual cost of transportation.
(4)

Repayment of unused amounts

Any individual to whom the House of Representatives or the Senate provides a per diem under this subsection shall return to the House of Representatives or the Senate (as the case may be) any per diem provided to the Member or employee which remains unexpended as of the conclusion of the travel. Any amount returned in accordance with the previous sentence shall be transferred to the Secretary of the Treasury, who shall use such amount for the purposes of deficit reduction.

(5)

Authorization of appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary for obtaining local currencies under this subsection, of which—

(A)

the amounts necessary for obtaining local currencies for the use of any individual whose pay is disbursed by the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives shall be appropriated from the applicable accounts of the House of Representatives; and

(B)

the amounts necessary for obtaining local currencies for the use of any individual whose pay is disbursed by the Secretary of the Senate shall be appropriated from the contingent fund of the Senate.

(6)

Definitions

In this subsection—

(A)

any reference to a Member of the House of Representatives includes a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to the Congress; and

(B)

the term official foreign travel means any travel outside of the United States for which the costs (including the costs of transportation, lodging, meals, and related expenses) may be covered by appropriated funds, including official funds of the House of Representatives or Senate, under law or the Rules of the House of Representatives or the Standing Rules of the Senate.

(b)

Conforming Amendments

(1)

Repeal existing authority

Section 502(b) of the Mutual Security Act of 1954 (22 U.S.C. 1754(b)) is amended by striking paragraph (1).

(2)

Maintenance of existing reporting requirements

Section 502(b)(3)(A) of such Act (22 U.S.C. 1754(b)(3)(A)) is amended by striking an authorization under paragraph (1) and inserting an authorization under section 2(b) of the Congressional Foreign Travel Reform Act of 2011..

(c)

Effective Date

This section and the amendments made by this section shall apply with respect to fiscal year 2012 and each succeeding fiscal year.

3.

Enhanced Disclosure and Other Restrictions Relating to Member Travel Under Rules of House of Representatives

(a)

Reporting Requirements for Official Foreign Travel by House Members and Employees

(1)

Statement Required Prior to Undertaking Travel

A Member or employee of the House of Representatives may not undertake any official foreign travel unless, not later than 14 days prior to the date on which the travel begins, the Member or employee prepares and makes available for public inspection in accordance with subsection (b) a statement containing the following information:

(A)

A statement of worthiness regarding the purpose of the travel, including a description of how the travel relates to the Member’s or employee’s official duties.

(B)

A tentative itinerary for each day of the travel, including a list of the locations the Member or employee intends to visit and any individuals with whom the Member or employee intends to meet.

(C)

The names of any other individuals who are accompanying the Member or employee during the travel, without regard to whether such individuals are Members or employees of the House.

(D)

The amount of the per diem the Member or employee requested to be provided for the travel, and whether the amount is greater than the standard per diem provided under chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code.

(E)

A description of the aircraft to be used for transportation for the travel, and the Member’s or employee’s best estimate of the costs of using such aircraft.

(2)

Statement Required After Completion of Travel

Not later than 14 days after completing any official foreign travel, the Member or employee who undertook the travel shall prepare and make available for public inspection in accordance with subsection (b) a statement containing the following information:

(A)

A statement detailing the value, worthiness, and educational benefit to the Member or employee of the travel.

(B)

The actual itinerary for the travel, including a comprehensive statement of travel times, meetings, and other activities carried out during the travel.

(C)

The actual cost of the travel, itemized by the costs of—

(i)

transportation (including the identification of the providers of the transportation);

(ii)

lodging (including the identification of the providers of the lodging); and

(iii)

meals (including the identification of the providers of the meals).

(D)

How much, if any, of the per diem provided for the travel was unspent.

(3)

Exception for Information Affecting National Security

A Member or employee may exclude from a statement prepared under this subsection any information which is classified or the disclosure of which would adversely affect national security, so long as the Member includes documentation in support of the exclusion in the statement prepared under this subsection.

(b)

Publication Requirements for Reports

Each statement required to be prepared under subsection (a) with respect to official foreign travel of a Member or employee of the House of Representatives shall be made available for public inspection as follows:

(1)

The statement shall be submitted for publication in the Congressional Record.

(2)

The statement shall be posted on the official public Web site of the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

(3)

The statement shall be posted on the official public Web site of the authorizing office.

(4)

In the case of a statement submitted with respect to travel of a Member, the statement shall be posted on the official public Web site of the Member.

(5)

In the case of a statement submitted with respect to travel of an employee, the statement shall be posted on the official public Web site of the employee’s employing office.

(c)

Prohibiting Vacation Stopovers During Travel

A Member or employee of the House of Representatives may not undertake a vacation stopover for annual leave at any point during official foreign travel.

(d)

Restrictions on Travel by Employees

(1)

Travel by Employees of Members

An employee of the House of Representatives whose employing office is the office of a Member may not undertake any official foreign travel unless—

(A)

the authorizing office for the travel is the office of the Member;

(B)

the travel is undertaken by the employee to accompany the Member on the Member’s own official foreign travel; and

(C)

no other employee of the office accompanies the Member on such travel.

(2)

Travel by Employees of Committees

An employee of the House of Representatives whose employing office is the office of a committee of the House of Representatives may not undertake any official foreign travel unless—

(A)

the authorizing office for the travel is the office of the committee;

(B)

the travel is undertaken by the employee to accompany a Member who serves on the committee on the Member’s own official foreign travel; and

(C)

the number of employees accompanying the Members of the committee on such travel does not exceed the number of Members of the committee who are participating in such travel.

(3)

Exception for Certain Travel

This subsection does not apply with respect to travel to a military installation or travel to a theater of operations of the Armed Forces.

(e)

Requiring Efforts To Reduce Expenses; Return of Unspent Per Diem

Each Member and employee of the House of Representatives who undertakes official foreign travel shall—

(1)

take such actions as may be necessary to reduce the costs incurred for such travel; and

(2)

return any per diem provided to the Member or employee which remains unexpended as of the conclusion of the travel.

(f)

Regulations

This section shall be carried out in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Committee on House Administration of the House of Representatives.

(g)

Definitions

In this section, the following definitions apply:

(1)

The term authorizing office means, with respect to a Member or employee of the House of Representatives, the office which is authorized under law or the Rules of the House of Representatives to approve the use of appropriated funds, including official funds of the House of Representatives, for official travel outside of the United States by the Member or employee.

(2)

The term Member of the House of Representatives includes a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to the Congress.

(3)

The term official foreign travel means any travel outside of the United States for which the costs (including the costs of transportation, lodging, meals, and related expenses) may be covered by appropriated funds, including official funds of the House of Representatives, under law or the Rules of the House of Representatives.

(h)

Statement of Rulemaking Authority of House of Representatives

This section is enacted by Congress as an exercise of the rulemaking power of the House of Representatives and shall be considered a part of the rules of the House of Representatives, with full recognition of the constitutional right of the House to change this section at any time, in the same manner and to the same extent as in the case of any other rule of the House.