Flying High With Congress

At least there is still one corner of the country that’s still partying like it was 2005. Those lovable fellows on Capitol Hill have decided that the time is ripe to upgrade their personal airline.

From the WSJ:

Congress plans to spend $550 million to buy eight new jets, a substantial upgrade to the fleet used by federal officials at a time when lawmakers have criticized the use of corporate jets by companies receiving taxpayer funds.

The purchases will help accommodate growing travel demand by congressional officials. The new planes augment a fleet of about two dozen passenger jets maintained by the Air Force for lawmakers, administration officials and military chiefs to fly on government trips in the U.S. and abroad.

The congressional shopping list goes beyond what the Air Force had initially requested as part of its annual appropriations. The Pentagon sought to buy one Gulfstream V and one business-class equivalent of a Boeing 737 to replace aging planes. The Defense Department also asked to buy two additional 737s that were being leased.

Lawmakers in the House last week added funds to buy a total of three Gulfstream planes and two additional 737s on top of the Pentagon’s request. The purchases must still be approved by the Senate. The Air Force version of the Gulfstream V each costs $66 million, according to the Department of Defense, and the 737s cost about $70 million.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said the Department of Defense didn’t request the additional planes and doesn’t need them. “We ask for what we need and only what we need,” he told reporters Wednesday. “We’ve always frowned upon earmarks and additives that are above and beyond what we ask for.”

It’s probably worth noting that these are the same righteous people that beat up the auto executives for flying their corporate aircraft to Washington and if memory serves me correctly the House Finance Committee made a point of inquiring about corporate aircraft during their grilling of the bank executives earlier this year. I guess it’s more do what I say, not what I do in their world.

I did find one other part of this article worth excerpting. It paints a pretty picture of the extent that Congress tends to indulge itself:

This month, for example, 11 separate congressional delegations will swing through Germany. House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio is leading five other lawmakers on a trip around the world. Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) is taking a group of senators and their spouses to Europe for three weeks.

A spokesman for Mr. Boehner said he couldn’t comment on the trip for security reasons. A spokeswoman for Mr. Shelby said the same.

Most travel must be approved by congressional committees. Once approved, the lawmaker who is leading a delegation can decide whether to fly on a commercial airline or to request a business jet from the Department of Defense.

Lawmakers typically fly on military jets, where members of the Armed Services carry bags and take drink orders. When flying on military jets, lawmakers are permitted to bring along spouses at no cost.

You know, you would think that they could mix their own damned cocktails and schlepp their bags themselves. Ah, but then again, royalty does demand a certain level of service.

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