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house Bill H.R. 626

Should Members of Congress Be Banned from Buying First Class Flights?

Argument in favor

Spending taxpayer money on first class flight tickets is a waste of money. Members of Congress shouldn’t be allowed to use taxpayer money on these indulgences when Congressional approval is low and the national debt is over $21 billion.

TrulyTexan's Opinion
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02/23/2019
Unless they are paying out of pocket with no reimbursement.
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Kodiwodi's Opinion
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02/23/2019
If taxpayers are paying for it yes. If they are personally paying for it no. If a lobbyist is paying for it, they should be walking.
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Glowurm's Opinion
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02/23/2019
Unless they pay for it themselves, fly like the rest of us. I could see business class. First class no!
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Argument opposed

Members of Congress — many of whom are elderly — often have to travel long distances to hard-to-reach locations on official business. Putting them in coach for long-haul trips will make it more difficult for them to meet their official obligations as public servants.

Brian's Opinion
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02/23/2019
I don't think the taxpayer should pay for first class flights for Congress or for cabinet members. However, if they're independently wealthy and want to pay with their own money, I don't care. We'd need strong audits and ethical investigations for that, probably, but I could work with it. But you can pay taxpayer funding.
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Brittney's Opinion
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02/23/2019
It’s inappropriate for tax dollars to pay for first class. If representatives, who fly frequently, want to upgrade their seat with their own money or air miles I see no issue with that.
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Christina's Opinion
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02/23/2019
I don't think taxpayers should foot the bill for first-class flights for our representatives, but I do think they should be allowed to fly first-class if they pay the difference out of their own funds. In the grand scheme of things, this bill seems fairly useless. Forcing reps to fly coach won't save us all that much money. What we need to control the deficit are higher taxes on the ultra-rich and for corporations like Amazon to pay their fair share.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Administration
    IntroducedJanuary 16th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 626?

This bill — the No Congressional First Class Flights Act — would prohibit members of Congress from flying in first class on flights, and instead requires them to fly coach for official travel.

Impact

Congressional travel; and members of Congress.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 626

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. 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 NoteIn 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.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / ZinaidaSopina)

AKA

No Congressional First Class Flights Act

Official Title

To prohibit the use of official funds for airline accommodations for Members of Congress which are not coach-class accommodations, and for other purposes.

    Unless they are paying out of pocket with no reimbursement.
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    I don't think the taxpayer should pay for first class flights for Congress or for cabinet members. However, if they're independently wealthy and want to pay with their own money, I don't care. We'd need strong audits and ethical investigations for that, probably, but I could work with it. But you can pay taxpayer funding.
    Like (129)
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    If taxpayers are paying for it yes. If they are personally paying for it no. If a lobbyist is paying for it, they should be walking.
    Like (224)
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    Unless they pay for it themselves, fly like the rest of us. I could see business class. First class no!
    Like (84)
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    Why should I travel by economy class and search for lowest fare possible because I cannot afford first class travel. Why should anyone on my tax money be allowed to travel first class ?
    Like (54)
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    Almost all representative’s have a sizable balance in their bank accounts. Taxpayers can pay for coach. If the representative feels he/she is too old to ride in coach~ that representative can pay for the upgrade. BTW, I have seen many elderly travelers in coach. Being old doesn’t mean you can abuse your position as a representative.
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    It’s inappropriate for tax dollars to pay for first class. If representatives, who fly frequently, want to upgrade their seat with their own money or air miles I see no issue with that.
    Like (44)
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    👎🏻 House Bill H.R. 4509 AKA No Congressional First Class Flights Act 👎🏻 Also NO free flights on U.S. Military aircraft INCLUDING Speaker Pelosi AND family members as they have done in the past. I’m in strong support and recommend the passage of the HOUSE Bill H.R. 4509 AKA the No Congressional First Class Flights Act — which would prohibit members of Congress from flying in first class on flights, and instead requires them to fly coach for official travel. IF they desire to fly “First Class” then they can pay, out of their,own pocket, for the ticket. Spending taxpayer money on first class flight tickets is a waste of money. Members of Congress shouldn’t be allowed to use taxpayer money on these indulgences when Congressional approval is low and the national debt is over $21 billion. SneakyPete.......... 👎🏻🛩🚀🚁👎🏻. 2*23*19...........
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    Yes but said differently. The federal government should be required to purchase or reimburse for airline travel of federal employees traveling on official business only at the economy fair ticket rate.
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    Let them live like the masses they SHOULD BE REPRESENTING.
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    I will be shocked if congress passes this.
    Like (23)
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    I don't think taxpayers should foot the bill for first-class flights for our representatives, but I do think they should be allowed to fly first-class if they pay the difference out of their own funds. In the grand scheme of things, this bill seems fairly useless. Forcing reps to fly coach won't save us all that much money. What we need to control the deficit are higher taxes on the ultra-rich and for corporations like Amazon to pay their fair share.
    Like (20)
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    No first class flights on the taxpayer. We are as broke as any nation in history has ever been and then some. If legislators wish to pay for the upgrade out of their own pocket that’s fine. Otherwise fly both commercial and coach just like everyone else. Do you hear me Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff? Are you listening Chuck Schumer?
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    Is a great idea for congress people fly coach.That way their constituents well be able to talk to them about important government issues. Unless they pay first class out of their own pockets with no reinvestment.
    Like (12)
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    If they would like to pay the difference between coach and 1st class I’d be ok with that otherwise not 1st class.
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    I don’t want my taxes paying for them to fly first class when I can’t even afford a first class ticket.
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    While I really don’t think we should pay for first class tickets, I would not have an issue with having them pay for their own upgrade.
    Like (11)
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    I can’t fly first class. Why should my elected officials (who are paid by me others like me) spend taxpayer money to do so?
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    What I can see being implemented is that We the People will pay for coach for official travel through taxpayer dollars, but allow the politician to pay the difference if they wish to upgrade.
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    Why should taxpayers fund first class when most of us use economy?
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