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Passenger rips GOP congressman for flying first class amid shutdown — but video doesn't tell whole story

'Taxpayers paid for this flight?'

Image source: YouTube screenshot

When an airplane passenger spotted Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois flying first class Tuesday, cellphone video captured the passenger letting Davis have it.

"Congressman, do you think it's appropriate to fly first class while 57 TSA agents aren't being paid?" the person asked Davis on the Chicago-to-Washington, D.C., flight, apparently regarding the Transportation Security Administration's 57,000 employees required to work without pay, the Huffington Post said.

Davis didn't reply, and the person then remarked, "Taking that as a yes."

The final zinger: "Taxpayers paid for this flight? Fair enough."

The Post said a tipster shared the clip with the outlet and asked to remain anonymous; the Post added that it hasn't been able to identify the person who confronted Davis.

Flights for members of Congress to and from their home jurisdictions aren't affected by the partial government shutdown, the outlet said.

And now the rest of the story

Davis' office bought him a coach ticket for the flight in question, but he was automatically upgraded because of his frequent flyer status, Davis spokeswoman Ashley Phelps told the Post in an email.

"There was no additional cost to taxpayers," Phelps also told the outlet, adding that his budget has never been used to buy a first-class ticket.

More from the Post:

Accepting the upgrade is not a violation of anti-corruption rules because it's something available to any person who accrues a certain number of miles and wasn't offered exclusively to Davis because of his position as an elected representative, an ethics officer in the House, who asked to speak on background since the episode is not under any official investigation, told HuffPost.

"All the same," Post writer Akbar Shahid Ahmed added, "for someone with power over people's paychecks to enjoy a luxe experience amid mass economic disruption makes for a jarring sight."

Davis actually was among a handful of "GOP defectors" who voted yes on "piecemeal bills to reopen parts of the federal government" earlier this month, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist wrote, adding that the decision was "a move to help inoculate themselves against Democrats coming after them in 2020."

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