President Barack Obama should cancel his trip to Sub-Saharan Africa because of its hefty price tag, two Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that deals with Africa have told Newsmax.
With an estimated cost of $60 million to $100 million — at a time when a budget sequestration is forcing major cuts in government agencies — the president should postpone the trip, say freshman Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Steve Stockman of Texas.
Both are members of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.
"Though the president must take diplomatic trips, the cost should always be carefully considered before finalizing an itinerary," Meadows told Newsmax. "Forcing a $100 million price tag onto hardworking taxpayers while American families struggle to balance their household budgets and thousands of federal workers are being furloughed is outrageous.
"With 76 percent of Americans now living paycheck-to-paycheck, President Obama needs to take a hard look at the burden his travel abroad is placing on the people at home," Meadows said.
Stockman agreed, branding the week-long trip which starts Wednesday, "a show of insensitivity to the American taxpayers by the president, who is always talking about the ills of sequestration."
Along with serving on the Africa subcommittee in the House, Stockman's work in Africa goes back to before he was in Congress. As a private citizen, he delivered antibiotics to South Sudan and the Republic of Congo.
Doubts about whether the trip — that will take the president to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania — is worth the cost began almost immediately after the Washington Post reported the details on June 14.
The following day, former White House Travel Office head Billy Dale told Newsmax: "It's mind-boggling to think of taking a trip like this when we are having to make the cuts in federal spending that we're now having to make."
Dale, who worked in the White House Travel Office for presidents from John Kennedy to Bill Clinton, added that he couldn't "imagine any president I worked for ever making a trip like that, especially when we had to tighten the budget."
Questions about the importance and timeliness of a trip to Africa emerged at the June 21 White House press briefing, when Jon Christopher Bua of Sky News succinctly asked Press Secretary Jay Carney: "Why Africa? Why now?"
"In keeping with the trips that President Bush took in his time in office; in making clear the importance of Africa in a variety of ways, the president will make a trip next week to engage in three countries with leaders in the region," replied Carney. "This is a part of the world that's seeing substantial economic growth, where there are substantial opportunities, and substantial national-security and other national interests for the United States and our allies."
But the House members who deal with Africa see it differently, with the cost taking priority over any "substantial opportunities" Obama may have there.
"Africa is very important and I realize Presidents Clinton and Bush placed great priority on going there," Stockman told Newsmax. "But at this time, I have great reservations about spending that kind of money on a presidential trip there. If the president wants to spend tax dollars on Africa, he should give it to one of the charities that is doing good work in the continent — maybe Billy Graham's charity, the [tax-exempt] status of which is now being probed by the IRS.
"Or perhaps he could use the tax dollars to re-open White House tours."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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