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Flying Miss Nancy

August 12, 2009

IBD                          6 Aug 09

Washington: The Democrat-controlled House wants to buy nearly $200 million worth of private jets so lawmakers and a few high-level bureaucrats can travel in style. We truly have an imperial Congress.

Just last week Washington announced it would cut $100 million from the federal administrative budgets and acted like that was some big achievement. Now this week we learn that about the same time those cuts were made public, the House OK’d the purchase of the private jets.

The taxpayer money the House plans to spend is to be used to buy three Gulfstream G550s at roughly $65 million each. These are long-range business jets with large, palatial interiors and three temperature zones. Company literature says the “impeccably equipped cabin” of a G550 offers “best-in-class comforts” and can be configured “with up to four living areas.”

“At Gulfstream,” the company says, “we have anticipated your every need.”

Sounds like just the sort of plane the House speaker, Senate majority leader and their extended entourages could enjoy on a nonstop junket to Asia — or merely for a quick turnaround to visit constituents in San Francisco or Las Vegas.

The notion that some lawmakers feel it beneath their dignity to travel with the masses on commercial jets is nothing new. But news of the House plan does bring to mind three salient facts, all of which the Democratic leadership hopes the public does not think of in relation to the jet purchase.

Congress isn’t short of hypocrisy. Most of the Democrats and their environmentalist allies are reflexively opposed to private jet travel because of its excessive carbon footprint. Or, at least, they are opposed to private jet travel for others.

Neither does it recognize irony. CEOs of the Big Three automakers were excoriated for traveling in their private jets last year to testify in Washington.

And some have an outsized sense of privilege. In 2007, just a month into the new Democratic majority, Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked that taxpayers provide a jet that could make a nonstop flight to her Bay Area district. She reportedly wanted a luxury, stateroom-outfitted version of Boeing’s 757-200 like those the vice president, first lady and Cabinet officials fly on.

And there was a lot of foot-stamping when the Bush White House said no.

At least one of the three jets approved by the House will be sent to the Air Force’s 201st Airlift Squadron, which, among other duties, shuttles members of Congress.

It seems Pelosi One might yet get off the ground.

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