UPDATE 2: So I did some digging and found that senator’s travel budgets are set amounts determined by their distance from Washington D.C. and the size of the state. This explains the high travel expenses of senators from California and Texas. A commenter on the “stalwarts of unbiased reporting”‘s site, Rick vs. Kay, actually beat me to the punch on this one.
Speaking of that site, I can’t figure out why they’re railing on Hutchison for spending nearly half as much as Cornyn. The “outrage” is reserved almost entirely for her. (And as a nerd aside, they also were unable to copy a table from Politico and paste it properly so we could see the name of the senator and their expenditure. n00b.)
UPDATE: PoliTex, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s politics blog just posted a story about Cornyn’s expenses as well. Read it here.
Politico has a story out about Sen. John Cornyn’s sizeable travel expenditures–the largest in the Senate, in fact. He and Sen. Chuck Schumer topped the list, each spending about $140,000 on travel in the first half of the year alone. As the story points out, this is more than ten times the amount of other senators. Politico writer Abby Phillip continues:
Cornyn, a Republican, racked up the highest travel bill in the Senate by spending more than $38,000 on a St. Michaels, Md., retreat for 59 staffers and by taking expensive, multicity charter flights throughout his home state of Texas.
Cornyn’s defense is that, well, Texas is a big state. In order to see all of it, and meet with its constituents, you must spend money on travel. (Edit: My apologies. This, in fact, turns out to be a completel valid response, as posted in Update 2 above.) Yet, others are able to manage at a fraction of the cost:
But other big-state senators manage to get around much more cheaply. Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison spent about $88,000 on travel in the first half of the fiscal year; Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski spent about $65,000 on transportation — less than half of what Cornyn spent.
Okay, I’ll give you traveling to Alaska as expensive, but within the state—what are there, three, maybe four cities? Okay, okay, I digress. The quote above is a valid point. I thought I had figured out where the high costs were coming from, until Politico shot that down, as well. Sen. Cornyn is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and, as such, must travel extensively:
These figures do not — or at least should not — include money the senators spend on purely political trips, such as any Cornyn and Schumer may have taken as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and past chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, respectively. They also do not cover trips senators take as part of overseas congressional delegations, which are paid for by separate funds.
In case you’re wondering, here’s a chart of every U.S. senator and their travel expenses.