Bob Schieffer, the host of “Face the Nation” on Sunday, August 9, 2009 reported the “Wall Street Journal” story originally written by Brady Mullins ([email protected]) and Timothy Farnam ([email protected]) of the “Wall Street Journal” about Congress authorizing one-half billion dollars to enlarge the fleet of private planes that carry Congressman on junkets.
It seems that 2 of the planes were old and did need replacing. Two more were being leased. But the House wants FOUR more planes beyond that.
Well, it seems that its members are spending more and more time overseas…. 3,000 days at last count…and the cost has been $13 million, which, by the way, is a four-fold increase from just 10 years ago, and a 10-fold increase since 1995.
Since 1995, the cost of flying Congressman to Timbuktu (or wherever) has increased 10-fold and now, in these dire economic times, the House has approved a measure to buy half a billion dollars more in private planes so Congressman (and their wives) can spend more than the current 3,000 days flying hither and yon. The Defense Department is on record as saying that more planes are not needed, but Congess has other priorities, apparently,.
Case in point: Brian Baird (D, Washington) not only took a trip to investigate climate change that saw him diving and snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef of Australia but also had the group visiting a penguin rookery and the South Pole. Six members of Congress took that 11-day trip over New Year’s of 2008, with their wives. The cost to taxpayers was $103,000, but it would have been $500,000 if the flights to the South Pole (South Pole for Congressmen, only; wives had to stay in New Zealand) had not been on Air Force planes. Brian Baird is on the House Science Committee on Research and Science Education.
It’s reassuring to learn that Baird also visited the Galapagos Islands on another trip.
Then representing Alaska, Ted Stevens flew to Paris with 4 others for the Paris Air Show. Cost? $121,000. Excuse: It’s hard to get to Alaska any other way than by flying and this kept him up-to-date…(until his recent legal troubles for some unethical conduct while in office made keeping up-to-date less of an issue).
Two days in Australia cost the American taxpayers $50,000. $32,000 was spent on hotels and meals. $7,000 was spent on transportation. $10,000 was spent for “other purposes” and, we learn, each member of such a trip gets a $350 a day per diem allowance for such “other expenses.” And, on the way back, the plane stopped to refuel in Hawaii and the Congressmen were housed at the Royal Hawiian Hotel.
To co-opt a famous drug ad: “This is your Congressman. These are your Congressman on private jet planes flying to the South Pole and asking for $550 million to fly more such trips?”