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Congressional Travel Expenses Revealed

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Travel and Leisure

A presidential suite stocked with liquor, beer and snacks, swanky hotels and gourmet dinners are just some of the expenses lawmakers traveling abroad have passed on to taxpayers.

The Wall Street Journal reports legislators have been taking more trips paid for by the government since a corruption scandal in 2005 led to restrictions on privately funded travel. The cost to taxpayers: $13 million last year, a 70 percent jump from 2005.

One particular trip to Scotland for 12 House members featured tours of historic buildings while some shopped for Scotch whiskey and others visited the hotel spa. The trip was designed for lawmakers to meet foreign officials and European legislators.

Fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition founder Tennessee Democrat John Tanner has taken seven previous trips for that conference. Their total reported cost for Tanner and his co-travelers came to $575,000, not including travel on military planes.

Rush Order

There is a lot of concern about bills being pushed through Congress too quickly with not enough time for members to read what's actually in the bill. One particular part of the massive spending bill that President Obama signed into law late Wednesday could have used a proof-reader.

It included a provision that requires passengers who carry firearms aboard Amtrak trains to be locked in boxes during their journey; passengers, not the guns.

The error was made during the enrolling process — when the final version of the bill is transferred to parchment paper.

The good news is that Amtrak has six months to implement the new policy, and by then the House and Senate will have had time to fix the mistake, so no one will be forced to travel boxed in a box car.

Black Out

Former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin made a potential political fashion faux-pas while vacationing with her family in Hawaii.

Palin was photographed wearing a visor from John McCain's failed presidential bid with the words "McCain for President" blacked out. Palin was McCain's running mate in that campaign.

She tells Politico she was just trying to be "incognito" to keep photographers away from her husband and children: "I am so sorry if people took this silly incident the wrong way. I adore John McCain."

Fox News Channel's Lanna Britt contributed to this report.

Bret Baier currently serves as anchor of FOX News Channel's (FNC) Special Report with Bret Baier (weeknights 6-7PM/ET), the top-rated cable news program in its timeslot. Based in Washington, DC, he joined the network in 1998 as the first reporter in the Atlanta bureau.