GOP-led Armed Services Committee thwarts Dems' attempt to get Trump travel costs

Democrats were rejected late Wednesday in an attempt to compel the Air Force to detail how much has been spent on trips that President Trump has made to his Florida estate and his other properties since taking office.

The GOP-led House Armed Services Committee narrowly defeated the bid. The members voted 31-31 on the measure, but ties count as defeats.

Democrats wanted the amendment on the annual defense policy bill to require the Air Force to regularly submit presidential travel expense reports to Congress. Each report would include "costs incurred" for travel to a property owned or operated by Trump or his immediate family, according to the amendment.

Republicans denounced the measure as “gotcha politics” and an attempt to litigate the 2016 election. However, Democrats contended that Trump has invited the scrutiny by refusing to divest himself from his business empire or release his tax returns.

“This is different," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., "This is unprecedented."

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said the committee had no business asking for the travel costs.

"This is the House Armed Services Committee," he said. "We don't oversee the federal bureau of ethics."

Conaway said the Defense Department can't audit its books and records as it is. Adding another requirement for detailed cost information would make the problem even worse.

"This will add one more straw to that camel," Conaway said.

Trump, who flies on Air Force one to his properties, incurs additional security expenses and support equipment. He visited his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on seven weekends in the winter, flown to his Trump Tower in New York City and more recently flew to his golf resort in New Jersey.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the bill’s author Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., that Trump’s travel costs are “consistent” with former President Barack Obama’s.

But backers of O'Halleran's amendment said Wilson's response failed to provide a breakdown of costs, which is what the lawmakers want. She said they are looking for "ongoing, regular transparency" of the financial impact to the Air Force's budget that may be caused by the frequency of travel by the president and his family.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.