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Should Members of Congress Use Taxpayer Money to Fly First Class?


"All it does is prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to purchase first-class airfare."

FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2013 file photo, travelers walk through terminal 3 baggage claim at O'Hare International airport in Chicago. The government reported Monday, May 5, 2014, that U.S. airlines raised $3.35 billion from bag fees in 2013, down 4 percent from 2012. That’s the biggest decline since fees to check a bag or two took off in 2008. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File) AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File\n

Some Republicans and Democrats in the House want members of Congress to stop flying first class on the taxpayers' dime.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and others note that members of the military aren't permitted to fly first class, and say members of Congress shouldn't be allowed this luxury either. They introduced a bill to fix this problem — the "If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then So Should Congress Act."

A bipartisan bill would force members of Congress to live like the rest of us do, at least when they travel by air. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

"This bill is a continuation of my efforts to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government," Gosar said in a statement announcing his new bill. "It's a very simple bill. All it does is prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to purchase first-class airfare.

"At a time of massive deficits and with a national debt in excess of $17 trillion, members of Congress should not be using taxpayers' hard-earned money to buy luxury airline seats. If members of our military can't fly first class using taxpayer funds, neither should members of Congress."

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) said members of Congress are "public servants" and should not get special breaks paid for by taxpayers.

"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," he said. "This bipartisan, fiscally responsible bill will close a loophole that currently allows members of Congress to buy first-class airfare using taxpayer funds."

The bill would ban taxpayer-funded first-class flights for members except in cases where a disability needs to be accommodated, or for other medical reasons. In addition to Ruiz, the bill is cosponsored by Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.).

In March, Gosar said he would try to add language to the legislative branch spending bill for 2015 that prevents first-class flights for members of Congress. However, the House passed that bill on May 1, and GOP leaders did not allow his amendment to be considered on the House floor, which prompted Gosar to try the idea again as a standalone bill.

Gosar also proposed an amendment to the spending bill that would prohibit taxpayer-funded portraits of members, but GOP leaders also did not allow consideration of this proposal.

Gosar, Ruiz and Jones made a handful of other proposals earlier this year aimed at saving money. These include ending bonuses to Department of Veterans Affairs officials, a response to the backlog of disability claims at that agency, and limiting VA conferences.

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