Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., booked a $19,525 flight to Egypt last November, paid for by taxpayers, to visit members of the New Mexico National Guard, according to U.S. House foreign travel reports.
Asked how the expense fits with the southern New Mexico Republican’s frequent criticism of reckless government spending, Pearce’s staff said the trip was a worthy expenditure.
“Congressman Pearce spent six years in the military, three of which he spent in Vietnam. During his time in the military, especially his time overseas, not one politician ever visited, let alone spoke to him. Congressman Pearce is committed to not making the same mistake,” Pearce spokesman Eric Layer said.
While in Egypt on the five-day trip, Pearce spoke with members of the Army Reserve about job prospects back home and met with Egyptian officials regarding foreign aid and the economic situation in that country, Layer said.
The $19,525 price tag? That was a result of booking the commercial flight with less than two weeks’ notice after a congressional delegation trip fell through, Pearce’s spokesman said. And Pearce was aiming to visit the National Guard troops on Veterans Day.
“International travel all the way to Egypt on two-weeks’ notice pretty much counts for that,” Layer said of the price tag. He said Pearce did not know the cost of the trip before it was booked.
An online search for round-trip airfare between Hobbs – Pearce’s hometown, where staff said the trip originated – and Cairo, leaving in less than two weeks with travel on same days of the week as Pearce, found tickets starting at $2,477.
That short-notice fare totals less than 13 percent of what taxpayers paid for Pearce’s trip. Fares for travel to Egypt leaving from Washington, D.C., were less than half that price, starting at $1,056.
Commercial airfares available in June 2013 are no guarantee of what was available when Pearce booked his trip last November, but it seems to be a fair context.
Meanwhile, Pearce has repeatedly warned that he believes financial belt-tightening is needed to catch up with Washington’s “spending problem.”
“Get yourselves efficient,” Pearce advised New Mexico federal workers in January amid a congressional fight on sequestration budget cuts that have since taken effect. “… I encourage the people in New Mexico to lead by example. Tighten your own belt and you’ll find yourself a winner as these cuts happen.”
The trip to Egypt wasn’t Pearce’s only trip to a foreign country within the past year. Other travel included trips to Ghana, the United Arab Emirates and Germany, although those trips had the international travel provided by the military, an option available to members of Congress.
Other members of New Mexico’s House delegation did not report any official foreign travel in 2012, according to House foreign travel records.