Taxpayer's Tab: Presidential Travel Update

Presidential Travel Study
Vol. 5 Issue 41, November 13, 2014

Presidential Travel Update

In what appears to be the last of his official scheduled travel for the year, President Obama has made stops in China and Burma and will visit Australia the 15th as he attends international summits and meets with key government leaders. According to the White House, the trip is the President’s sixth trip to the region since he took office.
In addition to attending meetings with the Trans Pacific Partnership to discuss trade policy and formulating regional economic goals at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the President used the opportunity to sign off on an agreement with China – two of the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions – that would reduce America’s carbon output by 28 percent over the next ten years. China’s responsibility under the agreement involves capping its emissions (not necessarily reducing them) and deriving 20 percent of its energy production from renewable sources by 2030. The plan has already received strong criticism from a Congress that is now dominated by Republicans.
Policy and diplomatic negotiations are always the primary focus of any President’s foreign travels, but there are also logistical considerations that go into these trips that directly impact taxpayers. NTU Foundation has been tracking Presidential travel for several years now, shedding light on what little we do know about the costs of such trips as well as a comparison of how often and for how long each President goes abroad. Now that President Obama’s sixth year travels are just about wrapped up, we’ve updated our data accordingly.

Foreign Presidential Travel Through Six Years

After the President returns from Asia, he will have spent 147 days abroad over 37 trips to 83 foreign countries (which includes those he has visited more than once). That is slightly more than the 143 days that George W. Bush had spent abroad at this point in his presidency, but less than the 158 we recorded for President Clinton through six years. If he keeps up his current pace – on average, 24.5 days abroad per year – President Obama will have spent 196 days abroad after 8 years. That would be less than the 215 days we recorded for President Bush and the 233 we noted for President Clinton.

Mr. Obama has visited France and Mexico five times, making them the most popular destination for his foreign travels. His recent trip to China, Burma, and Australia will be the second time he has visited each of those countries.
When it comes to costs, taxpayers are largely left in the dark regarding how much of each President’s foreign travel they pay for. The only data that has been confirmed is the cost per flight hour of Air Force One, which comes out to $228,288 and represents the cost of fuel, flight consumables, and repairs. At that rate the 12.5 hour trip from Washington, D.C. to Beijing would cost about $2.9 million for Air Force One alone; that does not include the cost for bringing along the extensive security and medical details, multiple cargo aircraft, and land transportation that all diplomatic travel requires.
For more on Presidential travel and its costs, check out NTUF’s past studies on the subject at

Balancing the Budget: Where the New Senators Stand

Last week’s issue looked at some of the policy issues that the newly elected Senators highlighted in their campaigns, and we noted that each of those taking seats previously held by Democrats espoused support for a balanced budget, with several specifically backing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.
What about the remaining new freshmen Senators? What did they have to say about the budget?

Alaska: Dan Sullivan
There is no mention of the phrase “balanced budget” on Sullivan’s campaign website, but he did declare support for deficit reduction: “We must enact sound fiscal policy that promotes innovation and job growth, reigns in federal spending, and reforms the tax code.” In October, in reply to a question from the Alaska Dispatch News about the deficit, Sullivan replied, “To reduce our deficit and debt, we must grow our economy, insist that the federal government live within its means with a [B]alanced [B]udget [A]mendment.”
Georgia: David Perdue
Perdue’s campaign website includes a whole page devoted to the national debt with a definitive statement: “We must get to a balanced budget by cutting waste, eliminating redundancies, and growing the economy. Also, many states, including Georgia, have a Balanced Budget Amendment. The federal government should have one too.”
Oklahoma: James Lankford
Lankford has served in the House since the 112th Congress. To date, NTUF’s BillTally program shows that his legislative agendas would reduce spending. On his campaign website’s page devoted to the budget, Lankford discusses moving the nation “back to balance” and notes that “the debt problem is a spending problem, not a tax problem.” In 2011, Lankford worked on a balanced budget proposal to limit spending to 19.9 percent of GDP.
Michigan: Gary Peters
Gary Peters did not advocate for a balanced budget on his campaign website but he did highlight his work on deficit reduction and that he “has always worked to improve oversight and fiscal responsibility from government.” On his House website, Peters states, “I agree with President Obama that we cannot simply cut our way to a balanced budget. In addition to reforming our tax code to put working families first, we must ensure that the wealthiest Americans and multinational corporations pay their fair share by closing corporate tax loopholes. We must also make sensible budgetary cuts that cut down on government waste without cutting core social safety net programs that many Americans rely on.”
During the First Session of the current Congress, Representative Peters’ legislative agenda would add $54 billion to the budget. While in the House, NTUF’s BillTally program shows that legislation that he has cosponsored would, on net, increase spending.
Louisiana Runoff:
Meanwhile, the Louisiana race for the Senate is headed to a special runoff on December 6.
Democratic Incumbent: Mary Landrieu
While campaigning for the Senate in 1996, Landrieu voiced support for a Balanced Budget Amendment and did vote in favor of an Amendment in the 105th Congress (it fell short by one vote), but in subsequent opportunities, she voted in opposition. Her campaign website does not list a stand on this issue, but in a debate on October 14, when asked if she favors a Balanced Budget Amendment, Senator Landrieu replied, “Not an amendment but a budget balanced.”
During the First Session of the current Congress, Landrieu backed a net spending increase of $9 billion.
Republican Challenger: Bill Cassidy
Representative Cassidy’s campaign website also does not include information regarding a balanced budget, but notes, “Bill believes Washington needs to stop out-of-control spending and lower taxes for small businesses and families.” He did support an Amendment in 2011, and more recently, when asked in the October 14 debate whether he favors a Balanced Budget Amendment, Cassidy replied, “Absolutely.”
In the 111th Congress, BillTally shows that Cassidy’s net legislative agenda would have increased spending by $24 billion. In the 112th Congress, the bills he backed would have, on net, decreased spending by $72 billion, and he was a $50 billion “net cutter” in the First Session of the current Congress.

National Taxpayers Union Foundation is a nonpartisan research and educational organization dedicated to helping Americans of all ages understand how taxes, government spending, and regulations affect them. Through our timely information, analysis, and commentary, we’re empowering citizens to engage in important policy debates and hold officials accountable.

Our findings are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to aid or hinder the passage of legislation or as a comment on any Member’s or Candidate's fitness to serve. 
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