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Six Members Headed to Persian Gulf

A bipartisan delegation of House Members will travel to the Persian Gulf this weekend, but details of the trip are being closely guarded by Members and their staffs, who cited concerns about security.

Scheduled to participate in the trip, arranged by the Pentagon, are Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), David Hobson (R-Ohio) and Ed Schrock (R-Va.). Sources said other Members likely to attend are Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) and Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas).

“We’re going to be looking at what’s going to happen with the infrastructure and with relationships with people in the region,” Hobson said.

Several offices declined to provide an itinerary for the trip, stating it had not been finalized as of press time; however, a Defense Department spokeswoman, Diane Perry, said Members are scheduled to leave today and return May 6.

Although Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) espoused concerns about using military resources — such airplanes or personnel required for security and staff purposes — during the early stages of the Iraq conflict, some aides said pressures on those resources have lessened recently.

Some of the ships and planes used to ferry troops and supplies have returned home, noted Schrock spokesman Tom Gordy, and “the assets are not as tied up.”

Johnson spokesman Troy Howard said of the Lone Star State lawmaker’s decision to attend: “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and she’s taking the opportunity to go.”

Hunter, who was preparing for a pending markup of the fiscal 2004 Defense spending bill, will not be attending the trip, said Communications Director Harald Stavenas.

However, with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to the region, including a stop Wednesday at the Baghdad airport to talk with U.S. armed forces in Iraq, Stavenas said many Members are eager to make the trip.

“If it’s safe for him to go [to the airport], I think it’s safe for Members,” Stavenas said.

Perry said a larger delegation will visit the Persian Gulf region sometime this summer.

Following the close of the first Persian Gulf War in late February 2001, CODELs began traveling to the region in mid-March of that year. About 30 House Members and 17 Senators joined trips to Kuwait to see the war’s aftermath.

Ethan Wallison contributed to this report.

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