- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2014

A bipartisan group of Congressmen introduced a bill Monday that would stop costly first-class flights by lawmakers at taxpayer expense and force representatives and senators to fly coach.

“As representatives of the American people, we in Congress have a responsibility to wisely use the people’s money,” said Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, in a statement. “Members of the House and Senate should never secure their own luxury travel at taxpayer expense, but they especially should not do so when our nation is buried $17 trillion deep in debt.”

H.R. 4632, known as the “If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then So Should Congress Act,” sets the same limits on congressional trips that govern most other government travel: Members and their staff cannot use taxpayer funds to buy first-class tickets unless they need to accommodate a disability or other medical need.

“Members of Congress are public servants and should not receive special privileges at the expense of hard working taxpayers,” said Rep. Raul Ruiz, a California Democrat. “It’s wrong that members of Congress can purchase luxury airfare with taxpayer money when many families in my district and across the county are struggling to make ends meet.”

Arizona Republican Paul Gosar and Georgia Democrat John Barrow also co-sponsored the bill.

An investigation last year by The Washington Times found that Congress spends between $6 million and $10 million each year on overseas trips alone, which doesn’t include the transportation lawmakers take between Washington and their home districts. Nor does it include privately funded gift trips members often receive from advocacy groups.

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• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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