Friday August 03, 2012 | 10:48 AM

WASHINGTON – Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, will meet with leaders of several European nations next week as part of a congressional delegation looking into the Eurozone financial crisis and potential impacts on the U.S. economy.

The delegation plans to travel to Ireland, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal – five of the countries hit hardest by Europe’s financial crisis – during the five-day trip, according to information released Thursday by the Senate Budget Committee.

The European trip is being led by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. In addition to Conrad and Snowe, the other members are Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.)

“The group is visiting one country per day, and meeting with foreign leaders, American business representatives, and U.S. government officials stationed in each country,” an announcement from the budget committee stated. “The delegation wants to better understand the policy choices the Europeans are considering, such as adopting immediate austerity measures verses pro-growth initiatives, and how that has impacted their recovery as well as their long-term deficit reduction efforts.”

Snowe is heavily involved in economic policy issues, serving on the Senate Finance Committee and as ranking member on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

"Given the United States and the European Union have the largest and most deeply integrated bilateral trade and investment relationship in the world, it is critical we learn from the Europe’s on-going fiscal crisis to aid our own economic recovery," Snowe said in a statement. "My colleagues and I on the trip will learn firsthand, through meetings with key officials and stakeholders on the frontlines, about the enormous challenges these countries are confronting from slow growth, trade imbalances, an interconnected banking system, and high debt and deficit levels. In turn, we can apply the lessons from both their successes and failures in an attempt to avoid our own ‘fiscal cliff’."

Members of Congress began a five-week summer recess on Thursday that extends through Labor Day. The delegation leaves Saturday and is expected to return on Friday.


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