Dems in Congress order jets for their own travel

So where is all the outrage about Car makers traveling by private jet to DC? This was not classified as an earmark because it simply was placed in as an expansion of an existing federal government program. As a result, the name of the person who asked for the additional money will not be made public. From Roll Call magazine:

Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies.

But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress.

The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service.

But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.

Because the Appropriations Committee viewed the additional aircraft as an expansion of an existing Defense Department program, it did not treat the money for two more planes as an earmark, and the legislation does not disclose which Member had requested the additional money. . . . .

UPDATE: John Fund has this at the WSJ's Political Diary.

How to Travel Like a CEO on a Government Salary

The country is in tough economic straits, but you wouldn't know it by how much Congress is spending on itself. The budget for the legislative branch is up over 10% this year, leading former Government Accountability Office chief David Walker to decry "just how much they are not setting an example for the rest of the government."

The spending spree is so big that the House Appropriations Committee has just authorized $195 million for the Pentagon to buy three Gulfstream jets. All three planes will be used to ferry government officials and members of Congress around the country on "official business." The jets are well appointed and feature what Gulfstream calls an "impeccably equipped cabin" with "best-in-class comforts."

"This just makes no sense. Talk about the wrong message at the wrong time," Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told reporters after vowing to block the funding in the Senate. She noted the Air Force itself had only requested funding for one additional plane, but the House is tripling the size of the order.

You'd think the House leadership would have thought twice about such poor symbolism. Just after the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2007, it was learned that new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had asked the Pentagon to provide her with a new jet that could fly her back to San Francisco without refueling. House speakers have had access to government planes ever since post-9/11 security concerns prompted a change in procedures.

No one begrudges Ms. Pelosi access to a government jet from time to time. But the watchdog group Judicial Watch documented last March just how difficult it's been for the Pentagon to accommodate Speaker Pelosi's demanding schedules. Judicial Watch obtained internal Pentagon correspondence that expressed frustration with the Speaker's office. One Defense Department official wrote in response to the numerous requests from her office for transportation, "Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi's team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend? . . .[T]here's no need to block every weekend 'just in case' . . ." The email also notes that Pelosi's office had, "a history of canceling many of their past requests."

The emails also show that intermediaries for Speaker Pelosi frequently expressed anger when they were told transportation demands couldn't be met. "It is my understanding there are no (Gulfstream) 5's available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable . . . The speaker will want to know where the planes are," wrote Kay King, Director of the House Office of Interparliamentary Affairs. In a separate email, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, Ms. King wrote, "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset [s]peaker."

Apparently, such problems may be resolved if the House is able to order up its new planes and assign them to the Pentagon's air pool. With the arrival of the new jets perhaps Speaker Pelosi's office will have less reason to complain in the future.

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