Business as usual for president

Published 10:52 am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The first family recently departed on their travels to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania as a part of a week-long visit across the continent of Africa. The agenda lists efforts to boost economic partnerships and promote democratic development in African nations, all at a cool cost of $100 million to American taxpayers.

An elaborate security infrastructure for the first family is a major contributor in the cost of the trip, which will involve airlifting bullet-proof support vehicles, sending hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents to each country, and stationing a Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship offshore to be made available in case of an emergency.

But while the President flies across the world with his family, civil servants continue to receive furlough letters in the mail. Families sit around the kitchen table over spreadsheets and calculators, working and reworking their budgets, trying to decide whether they can afford, not vacations, but life’s everyday essentials.

I have long supported the use of presidential visits overseas for diplomatic purposes. We can reap valuable benefits from goodwill and engagement overseas. However, the cost of diplomatic travel needs to be carefully weighed in the context of our current climate. Considerations must be made to formulate the most cost-effective plan as possible – for instance, streamlining multi-country visits or traveling with fewer family members, to name a few.

Our nation faces austere times. Thousands of civil servants have had their regular salaries reduced. No sequestration solution is in sight. Our federal spending is a mess. Quite simply, using millions of taxpayer dollars to fund such an elaborate trip is not only symbolically reckless, but shows a lack of focus on cutting spending and solving sequestration.

Furthermore, the estimated $60 to $100 million in tax dollars that will be used to fund the President’s trip to Africa with his family, emblematically sends the wrong message to those civil servants who have been forced to cut their family budgets to make ends meet during this time.

This week, I introduced a resolution expressing those concerns. Specifically, H.Res.275 brings to attention that the $100 million used to fund the President’s trip is a misguided use of taxpayer dollars at a time when thousands of families face furloughs and with no sequestration solutions in sight. It is important for Americans to see that our government leaders are tuned in to the ramifications of sequestration, the current state of our federal budget and our national debt. They need to know leaders are laser-focused on bringing resolution to these issues, rather than continuing to operate under business as usual.