Pelosi Airways: Flying Blind
The next time you are sitting in economy class, with your knees bent nearly to your chin and a screaming kid on either side of you, think of how nice it would be to fly with Nancy Pelosi, who might just get her own new plane to commute to and from her California home.
Last week, articles appeared in The Washington Times claiming that the new House Speaker had requested a new airplane that was much larger and more expensive than the one that her Republican predecessor, Dennis Hastert, used to travel to and fro. The Times article attributed the request to Pelosi herself, and Republican blogs had a field day. The Times had its story only partially straight. While it is true that the new plane will be capable of flying non-stop from Washington to California, the replacement requisition came not from Pelosi, but from Bill Livingood, the House sergeant at arms:
"The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable," Livingood, who has been at his post for 11 years, said in a written statement.
Pelosi had already denied the Republican claim that she had asked for a new plane, and the story reports that John Murtha is planning to conduct hearings on Congressional travel arrangements and perks.
That is a good idea. Pelosi has expressed her willingness to travel commercially, along with the rest of us. The Pentagon points to security issues as the reason for providing military transport to selected legislators Let's hope that the proposed Murtha hearings don't continue to beg the real question here, which is not whether our representatvies should have a more or less costly means of government transport. The ii issue Murtha and others ought to address is this: if security arrangements on commercial airlines are not tight enough to protect nearly all of our elected officials, are they really good enough for the rest of us?
Related Documents: Congressional Research Service 98-385(PDF) House Sergeant at Arms
Pentagon Letter to Pelosi(PDF)