What is House Bill H.R. 626?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 626
In-Depth: Rep. Roger “Rob” Wittman (R-VA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress as part of his push for greater Congressional accountability:
“When traveling for official business, Members of Congress should not have special privileges. If Members are using taxpayer money to fly, they should fly like most taxpayers. When I travel, I fly coach because I believe being in Congress is about public service, not abusing hard-earned American tax dollars. We need accountability in Congress, and that starts with the Members themselves.”
In a letter to his Congressional colleagues seeking cosponsors for this bill, Rep. Wittman also noted Congress’ “dismal” approval rating, and argues that the need for Congressional accountability is greater than ever:
“Congress’ approval rating is at a dismal 20%, our national debt has ballooned to over $21 trillion, and the last time Congress passed all twelve appropriations bills on time was 1997. Congressional accountability is more important now than ever. As a step in the right direction, I invite you to cosponsor [this bill].”
FreedomWorks supported this bill in the previous Congress. Its president, Adam Brandon, wrote:
“Members of Congress are elected by their constituents to serve the public, not to personally profit from abuse of power. It is understandable that members of Congress frequently travel between Washington, D.C. and their home districts, often requiring a flight to do so. However, using taxpayer dollars to pay for members’ first-class luxury flights is both irresponsible and unnecessary… The No Congressional First Class Flights Act is a common-sense measure to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used to benefit constituents, not on personal luxuries for members.”
Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group, says optics alone may keep most members of Congress from choosing first class tickets, even when they don’t cost taxpayers extra money:
“These are people who travel to and from their districts a lot, and some of them have told me they have the points to fly first-class but won't use them. They say, 'I want to go talk to my constituents without a newspaper article that says I flew first class.'"
Kate Irby, a reporter for McClatchy’s DC Bureau, argues that there’d likely be no real cost savings from banning members from buying first class tickets:
“Members of Congress have set office allowances to fund work expenses such as staff, travel, mail and office equipment; members get bigger allowances depending on how difficult their district is to access from D.C. Money saved by not buying first-class tickets would likely simply be used for other expenses.”
In 2018, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) explained the House Intelligence Committee’s high travel spending through his spokesman, Jack Langer, who said:
“The increased spending results from a directive issued by Chairman Nunes for (committee) members to spend more time in the field. When dealing with intelligence issues, that’s really the crucial way to gain relevant information. Additionally, HPSCI travel costs tend to be relatively high because Members often travel to unusual, hard-to-reach locations.”
This bill has no cosponsors in the current session of Congress. Last Congress, this bill was introduced by Rep. Rob Blum (R-IA) with the support of seven bipartisan cosponsors, including six Republicans and one Democrat. In the 114th, Congress, Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL) introduced this bill with Rep. Blum as the only cosponsor; prior to that, lawmakers in both parties introduced similar bills, none of which passed.
Of Note: In the year prior to the 2016 election, taxpayer money funded 557 first class flights that each cost over $10,000 for members of Congress and staffers. Those itineraries made up 40 percent of all individual Congressional trips for which travel costs were publicly reported. For comparison, less than 0.2 percent of tickets the general public purchased through U.S. travel agencies in 2015 and 2016 cost over $10,000.
- Sponsoring Rep. Roger Wittman (R-VA) Press Release
- Sponsoring Rep. Roger Wittman (R-VA) Dear Colleague Letter
- FreedomWorks (In Favor, Previous Congress)
- McClatchy DC Bureau (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / ZinaidaSopina)
No Congressional First Class Flights Act
To prohibit the use of official funds for airline accommodations for Members of Congress which are not coach-class accommodations, and for other purposes.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on AdministrationIntroducedJanuary 16th, 2019
- house Committees