Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz., introduced one of the measures.

Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz., introduced one of the measures. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Lawmakers Look to Crack Down on Federal Employee Travel

Members of both parties seek to make government travel more transparent and ethical.

Lawmakers in both parties have put forward legislation to place new restrictions on the travel of federal employees, seeking more oversight and ethical spending of taxpayer dollars.

The 2019 Taxpayers Don’t Incur Meaningless Expenses (Taxpayers DIME) Act (H.R. 1463) would require federal agencies to report to Congress each quarter on the travel of any senior official on government aircraft. The measure would also task the Office of Government Ethics with developing new suggestions for “strengthening federal travel regulations.”  

The legislation would also block funding for any travel that violates the portions of federal regulations dictating restrictions on the use of government aircraft.

“When I was elected to Congress, I made a commitment to clean up Washington and end the special taxpayer-funded perks for elected officials and bureaucrats,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., who introduced the bill. “We must hold our government leaders to the highest standards, and with so many high-profile ethics violations in the past years, it is clear we have failed to do that. No matter who controls Congress or the White House, we have to hold everyone accountable.”

Several Trump administration officials have become ensnarled by various travel scandals, leading, at least in part, to the resignations of former Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, former Veterans Affairs Department Secretary David Shulkin and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. O'Halleran introduced another measure to require the Defense Department to report quarterly on presidential travel, including costs incurred by the commander in chief’s travel to properties he or his family owns or operates.

Another bill, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., also aims for more ethical federal employee travel. His measure (H.R. 1427) would encourage federal employees to stay in hotels that have taken action to reduce human trafficking on their premises. The General Services Administration would create a list of hotels that have taken certain steps to train their own workforces on recognizing and reporting human trafficking and require feds to prioritize staying in those facilities when traveling for work.

The bipartisan measure, which was cosponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., would prioritize agency bookings and payments for hotels that met the human trafficking prevention standards.

“U.S. government travelers should be staying at hotels that are part of the solution to human trafficking, not part of the problem,” Smith said. "Hotels have no more excuses as to why they can’t join the fight to stop trafficking and the U.S. government has no traveler funds for irresponsible hotels.”