Hitching rides on the Speaker’s Shuttle

As reported by CBS News, one of the expensive perks of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is access to a military aircraft to shuttle her across the country. A one-way trip costs taxpayers an average of $28,210. The planes she can ride “free” “are  luxury jets that are the military versions of a Gulfstream V.” Supposedly, the Speaker — whoever it might be — has such special security issues that this perk is considered justified by certain officials in Congress:

The House Sergeant at Arms, who is elected by Members of Congress, issued a statement Oct. 1, 2010 saying he requested military aircraft for the speaker’s use “based upon security concerns… Ongoing security assessments of the Speaker warrant continued use of such aircraft.” Though security is a stated concern, no known directive requires the Speaker to use military transport.

  However, the CBS report also notes that

Yet security concerns were not cited by Assistant Defense Secretary Robert Wilkie when he discussed the shuttle service in 2007. The military shuttle support would be provided “as a courtesy in recognition of your position as Speaker of the House,” says a letter from Wilkie to Pelosi on Feb. 7, 2007.

A courtesy? A $28,210-per-one-way-ride courtesy? Humbug.

The article calls Speaker Pelosi on allowing family members to ride with her:

According to available records, Pelosi began inviting her family members aboard the Speaker Shuttle less than two months after she became Speaker. Like Hastert, she often takes her spouse (with no reimbursement required). She also extends the privilege to other family members. Listed among the passengers on a Feb. 22, 2007 flight from San Francisco to Washington D.C. are husband Paul Pelosi, daughter Christine and son Paul.

The military decided that family, aside from her husband, could ride but would have to reimburse the government for their passages.

Besides family, Speaker Pelosi has also invited other member of Congress and California politicians to fly with her:

Since then, records indicate the Congressional passenger list on the Speaker Shuttle has grown to also include from time-to-time Zoe Lofgren, Sam Farr, Lynn Woolsey, Jackie Speier and John Garamendi; all Democrats from California.

Yes, one of the selected few was Lynn Woolsey! Those political elites do stick together, don’t they? She does have to reimburse “at the government rate” — whatever that is. Apparently it is

“The equitable rate” of reimbursement, says Pelosi’s Counsel Bernard Raimo, “seems to be what the Member would pay for a similar coach flight at the government rate.”

So, Lynn Woolsey gets a luxury flight for the price of coach. Hm:

Fitton, the conservative watchdog, argues it’s inappropriate for the speaker to hand out first-class travel perks to favored colleagues who merely pay the price of a government coach fare. “Reimbursing the military or the government at the commercial rate does not nearly cover the costs, which are exponentially greater than any commercial ticket,” Fitton said.

Honestly, I haven’t seen examples of Lynn Woolsey abusing Congressional perks too often. But I do think this is one she should have refused. She can talk to Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C. during regular sessions. Or, during recesses when they are both home in their adjacent districts, she can drive down to the Speaker’s “exorbitantly expansive” castly-office that costs taxpayers an additional $18, 736 a month! There is no need for Rep. Woolsey to hitch a ride on “the Speaker’s” plane.

But riders aside, this luxury plane perk should be eliminated — for all, including the Speaker of the House. Reasonable security can be handled far less expensively, and we just don’t have the money for such nonsense.

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My source for the photo of the plane also provided further information about it:

The C-37A, the military version of the 12-seater Gulfstream V. It’s able to fly at high altitudes and therefore fly to other continents, with a 6,300-mile range. There are seven C-37As based in the United States, with four at Andrews Air Force Base. Each plane cost $36 million.

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About district6voter

A concerned Northern California citizen who believes Representative Lynn Woolsey ought to be replaced in November, 2010.
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