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The halls of the U.S. Capitol will be quiet for the next five weeks, as lawmakers are away for their August recess. They'll return to their home districts and talk with constituents, but some will also travel abroad, including House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. He is leading a Congressional delegation to Israel and Palestinian territories, just as Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to jump start Middle East peace talks. David Hawkings, writer for Hawkings Here for Roll Call, has some of the details.
Hoyer will be traveling to Israel with 36 other House Democrats. On what kind of impact these trips really have:
"These trips are not paid for by Congress, not paid for by taxpayers... they're paid for by a nonprofit educational arm of AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, which is very eager to persuade members of Congress to Israel's side of these peace talks. They're eager to go every summer. They're eager to get as many members over there as possible. And ultimately what they want is for members to be persuaded that the way AIPAC sees it is the way they should see it."
On concerns about Congressional trips sponsored by lobbying groups:
"Members of Congress have concerns that if they go overseas during the summer, instead of going back to their constituencies... that they will get in trouble for being perceived as having taken a junket."
On Sen. Tim Kaine's new role as chairman of a Senate subcommittee on the Middle East:
"It is a supporting role, to be sure. It is a role that one would assume that Sen. Kaine would be a cheerleader for whatever Secretary of State Kerry is doing. Congress' main role is to endorse whatever it is the United States is doing. The amount of money that Congress spends on Israel... they're our number one recipient of foreign aid. And there isn't too much about how much should be spent."