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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Examiner Editorial: Congressmen shouldn't fly first-class on taxpayers' dime

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Opinion,Congress,Editorial,Harry Reid,Waste and Fraud,Budgets and Deficits,Washington Examiner,Air Travel

Once in a while, even in Congress, an idea crops up that makes so much sense that people say “well, of course” when they hear of it. Such is the case with the "If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then so Should Congress Act of 2014” (H.R. 4632), originally introduced by a bipartisan group of four members of the House of Representatives: Republicans Walter Jones of North Carolina and Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Democrats Raul Ruiz of California and John Barrow of Georgia.

Members of Congress have been flying first-class for a long time, thanks to a loophole that exempts them from rules that require executive branch officials and members of the military to fly coach on commercial flights unless they upgrade their tickets at their own expense.

Flying first-class...is just one of many perks enjoyed by elected representatives.

The four lawmakers, Gosar said in a statement, have filed "a very simple bill. All it does is prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to purchase first-class airfare. At a time of massive deficits and with a national debt in excess of $17 trillion, members of Congress should not be using taxpayers' hard-earned money to buy luxury airline seats. If members of our military can't fly first-class using taxpayer funds, neither should members of Congress."

Flying first-class on the taxpayers’ dime is just one of many perks enjoyed by elected representatives. They are also allowed to make multiple flight reservations and if they miss one due to a vote on the floor of Congress or other "urgent" matters, they are guaranteed a seat on the next plane. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is a five-minute ride from Capitol Hill and congressmen have their own special — because it's free to them — parking area when they arrive. The travel funds come out of the congressmen’s office and representation budget, which also includes funding for big staffs, including personal drivers. Beyond the Potomac River, such drivers are usually referred to as “chauffeurs.”

It being an election year, nobody will be surprised when the “If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then so Should Congress Act of 2014” passes the House unanimously. But there are so many ways the measure still might never become law. Getting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow Senate votes on anything that comes over from the Republican-led House is next to impossible. But as a practical matter, this measure may be especially unlikely to gain Reid's support. After all, the Nevadan would doubtless feel gravely inconvenienced if he had to fly from Washington to Las Vegas in a coach seat two or three times a month.

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