Lawmakers seek to limit government travel expenses

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Gary Peters (D- Mich.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating, and Lodging (HOTEL) Act to prohibit executive branch employee travel expenses paid by tax dollars from being spent at properties owned by the president, vice president, cabinet secretaries or their family members.

The legislation aims to prevent potential conflicts of interest or abuse of tax dollars by barring federal agencies from approving travel expenditures to businesses that executive branch top officials have a financial interest in.

According to a recent Washington Post report, taxpayers paid more than $1,000 for one executive branch employee’s two-night stay at the Mar-a-Lago resort owned by President Donald Trump while the employee was traveling on official government business.

“President Trump’s unprecedented conflicts of interest leave the door wide open to the First Family using the presidency – and taxpayer money – to personally enrich themselves,” said Udall. “Every time the president plans a lavish trip to one of his private clubs, and every time an executive branch employee pays for a room with taxpayer dollars at a Trump property, President Trump stands to profit. The HOTEL Act is critical to making sure that taxpayer money isn’t being spent to pad any government official’s bottom line.”

“Executive branch officials like the President and cabinet secretaries should not have a profit motive in the travel decisions made by the federal employees under their supervision,” said Peters. “Taxpayers in Michigan and across the country deserve to know that their hard-earned tax dollars are not being subjected to potential waste, abuse or conflict of interest when federal officials could stand to personally profit. This commonsense bill promotes good governance by ensuring that tax dollars are being used efficiently and that federal employees are not subject to undue pressure to patronize businesses owned by their top-level managers.”

“The federal government should serve the American people—not serve a President’s profit margins. The HOTEL Act sets reasonable limits on the per diem payments of executive branch employees by preventing Americans’ tax dollars from flowing into the pockets of cabinet secretaries, the President, and the Vice President,” said Warren.

The HOTEL Act prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for paying executive branch employees’ per diem allowance or travel reimbursements for lodging or dining services at any properties owned by the president, vice president, or the head of the employee’s federal agency.

The legislation exempts expenditures that fall under the protective missions of the United States Secret Service and other agencies, but will provide heightened oversight of these expenses by requiring any such expenditures to be reported to the Office of Government Ethics.

Udall also introduced the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act to require publication of visitor logs to the White House or any other location where President Trump regularly conducts official business, including various Trump Organization properties frequented by the president.

As ranking member of the Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management Subcommittee, Peters is focused on fighting waste, fraud and abuse to ensure federal tax dollars are used effectively and efficiently.

In January 2017, Warren introduced the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, which would require the President, Vice President, and their spouses and minor children to place their financial assets into a blind trust, protecting against conflicts of interest.


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