The State Journal-Register

April 8, 2006

LaHood departs for India ;
Wife accompanies him on congressional journey lead by Hastert

By DORI MEINERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, and his wife left Friday on a 12-day, taxpayer-funded trip to India, Nepal and Vietnam.

LaHood is one of eight House members on the congressional trip, which is being led by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Plano.

LaHood is scheduled to return to Peoria on April 18, spokesman Tim Butler said.

He's making the trip because it is related to his duties as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Butler said. LaHood is taking his wife because they have limited time to spend together, he said.

"The congressman's work schedule, with constant meetings in either Washington or Illinois, combined with weekly travel back and forth, does not allow for much family interaction," Butler said.

LaHood believes congressional trips "serve an important purpose in helping him to do his job, especially as a member of the Intelligence Committee," Butler said. "At the same time, he also believes in the importance of his almost four-decade marriage."

LaHood pays for his wife's meals and incidentals when she goes along on such trips, Butler said.

Hastert's wife is not traveling with the group, Hastert's spokesman said.

Portions of the trip are similar to one that LaHood planned to take with Hastert in January. That trip was canceled after former lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe public officials and other charges, prompting Hastert to call for lobbying reform.

From Sunday through Wednesday, the delegation will visit New Delhi and Jaipur, India, where they will discuss recent initiatives between the United States and India, including "the importance of civil nuclear cooperation initiatives in strengthening the international nonproliferation system," according to a press release from Hastert's office.

President Bush recently announced an agreement to share civilian nuclear technology with India, which has been criticized because it allows India to avoid international inspection of its nuclear weapons program.

The House members are slated to meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other dignitaries.

The delegation will travel to Nepal and Vietnam, but no details were given on the remainder of the trip for security reasons, Hastert spokeswoman Heidi Armstrong said.

Besides Hastert and LaHood, other House members on the trip are Reps. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio; Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y.; Frank Lucas, R-Okla.; Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas; and Dan Boren, D-Okla.

Last April, LaHood and his wife traveled to China during the two-week congressional recess at the expense of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.