The blowback is bipartisan for Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, and Democratic colleague Seth Moulton of Massachusetts after their quick, unsanctioned visit to the hectic airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The two Iraq war vets said they went Tuesday to see conditions at the site of a massive airlift evacuating U.S. citizens, allies and vulnerable Afghans. Criticism came Wednesday from the House speaker, the Republican leader and the defense secretary's spokesman.
The Washington Post tells what the House's top Democrat said:
"There's a real concern about members being in the region," [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi told reporters Wednesday at her weekly briefing. There was an "opportunity cost" of protecting [the congressmen], she said.
"This is deadly serious. We do not want members to go. ... We don't want anybody to think that this was a good idea and that they should try to follow suit."
Pelosi said she and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of Califpornia "put out the word to committee chairs, there isn't going to be planes or this or that for people going to the region."
The Post quotes the minority leader:
"It's not the best idea to go there, but I understand their frustration," McCarthy said. He blamed the Biden administration for not providing enough information on the evacuation, and that that lack of information prompted the trip.
Other GOP representatives spoke of possible Kabul visits, McCarthy said, adding: "I explained to them that I don't think they should."
At the Pentagon, a spokesman said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin "would have appreciated the opportunity to have had a conversation before the visit took place."
"They certainly took time away from what we had been planning to do that day. ... We obviously are not encouraging VIP visits to a very tense, dangerous and dynamic situation at the airport."
Original post, Tuesday night:
Michigan's Peter Meijer and fellow Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachussetts flew unannounced Tuesday to Kaubul's airport on a charter aircraft in the midst of all the chaos, infuriating Biden administration officials.
The pair left early Wednesday (Afghan time) on an evacuation flight.
According to The Washington Post and, earlier, the Associated Press, officials said:
► U.S. military personnel had to divert resources to provide security and information to the lawmakers.
► The congressmen took seats for the return trip that were for other Americans or Afghans fleeing the country.
► The trip was done without coordination with diplomats or military commanders directing the frenzied evacuation with an Aug. 31 deadline.
"It's as moronic as it is selfish," a senior administration official told The Post. "They're taking seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans—while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk—so they can have a moment in front of the cameras."
Both representatives are military veterans of the Iraq war.
In a joint statement to The Post from Moulton's spokesman, the two pushed back on the notion that they caused a distraction:
"We have been on the other side of this argument while we were serving and it just isn't accurate. Trust us: The professionals on the ground are focused on the mission. Many thanked us for coming."
Meijer is a Republican from Grand Rapids who's on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Moulton is a Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. They made the trip "to conduct oversight on the mission to evacuate Americans and our allies," Moulton’s office said.
Moulton, first elected in 2014, earlier served four duty tours in Iraq as a Marine infantry platoon leader. Meijer served in the United States Army Reserve from 2008-16 and was deployed to Iraq in 2010-11 as an intelligence advisor.