A new bill from Senate Democrats would prohibit officials working for the executive branch from using taxpayer-funded travel expenses to stay or eat at any property owned by President Trump and other top administration officials.
Democratic Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan, Tom Udall of New Mexico, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced the Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating and Lodging (Hotel) Act on Tuesday. Under their legislation, federal officials are banned from using taxpayer dollars to pay for per diem allowances or travel reimbursements for accommodations or dining at properties owned or operated by the president, the vice president, or Cabinet officials.
"Executive branch officials like the president and Cabinet secretaries should not have a profit motive in the travel decisions made by the federal employees under their supervision," Peters, the bill's sponsor, said in a statement. "Taxpayers in Michigan and across the country deserve to know that their hard-earned tax dollars are not being subjected to potential waste, abuse or conflict of interest when federal officials could stand to personally profit."
The legislation would exempt Secret Service agents, as well as other security agency personnel. Security agencies, though, would be required to disclose their expenses to the Office of Government Ethics under the plan.
On Friday, the Washington Post reported the federal government paid Mar-a-Lago, the president's property in Palm Beach, Fla., $1,092 for a government employee's two-night stay when Trump visited there at the beginning of March.
Mar-a-Lago, which Trump has dubbed the "winter White House," charged the government $546 per night for a standard room, according to an invoice obtained by the organization Property of the People through a Freedom of Information Act request sent to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The top of the bill read "National Security Council," and the Coast Guard did not say who stayed in the room at Mar-a-Lago.
The president was joined at his Florida property the weekend of March 3 by several administration officials, including John Kelly, who was then serving as Secretary of Homeland Security, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In addition to the charges at Mar-a-Lago, the State Department spent more than $15,000 for 19 rooms at the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver in February.
The charges were incurred during the grand opening of the property, which Trump's children Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Tiffany Trump all attended.
It's not known who stayed in the rooms, though it's possible the accommodations were made for Secret Service agents. The invoice detailing the charges from Trump's Vancouver property was from the U.S. Consulate General in Vancouver, and the State Department helps with security and logistics for trips out of the United States.
Trump has come under criticism for not divesting from his businesses, and the president is currently being sued for allegedly violating the foreign emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.