U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis says proposed congressional rules would tighten travel reporting
State Journal-Register, by Bernard Schoenburg
Nearly seven months after the resignation of former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, a House committee is set to take up rule changes involving issues including travel and congressional office decorating.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said he and a Democrat, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, since the spring have been co-chairing a review of how House members and staff claim expenses.
“This is more than just an issue regarding one member of Congress or former member of Congress,” Davis said when asked if questionable spending by Schock led to the review.
Schock’s spending got attention due to a redecorating at his Washington, D.C., office in the style of the "Downton Abbey" TV show. Schock also reimbursed the government for more than $85,000 in mileage expenses he had claimed.
“This was a chance for us to make changes that we thought would make the House operate better, provide more transparency, and would also, in the future, give better guidance to the members and the staff for issues that may arise,” Davis said.
Davis and Lofgren are members of the committee on House administration, which on Wednesday will consider rule changes. Davis said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Michgan, who chairs the committee, asked him to be involved because as a former staffer to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, he is familiar with the expense process.
One recommendation is to end something called the “travel subsistence” budget category, used since 2009, which allows various kinds of travel expenses to be lumped together.
“Before that, you had to separate out what was airfare ... what was lodging ... what was food and beverage,” Davis told The State Journal-Register.
Davis said he continued to itemize travel reports for Shimkus when he was on that staff, and there was bipartisan support to return to that system for all members and their staffs.
“It’s a process that I think should have been left in place initially, and in my opinion, I’m glad we’re going back to it,” Davis said.
Another part of the resolution will specify that unless prior approval is obtained from the House administration committee, a private or charter aircraft from Washington, D.C., to any destination can’t be reimbursed from official funds. Within districts, use of such aircraft must be approved in advance if the total itinerary expense is expected to exceed $7,500.
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