Congress scraps plan for new executive jets
Remember when members of Congress embarrassed auto executives who flew to Washington aboard private jets when their companies were looking for bailouts?
The public grilling that was replayed over and over again came back to haunt the lawmakers, reappearing in television news stories about the House adding four executive jets to a defense appropriations bill despite Pentagon objections.
Late Monday, House leaders reversed course and dropped plans to spend $550 million to upgrade the Air Force fleet used by senior government officials and members of Congress for world travel. The Pentagon had only requested $220 million to buy four passenger jets. So, the House leaders are reverting to the the original request.
When they boosted the order to eight executive jets, lawmakers said they were simply replacing aging aircraft and that the new ones would be far more cost-efficient to operate.
The argument might have been valid, but it did not help when the berating of the auto execs and their private planes kept getting mixed into the story about lawmakers and the plan to upgrade executive jets for their own use.
There was a loud chorus of public criticism and opposition from U.S. senators, other House members and even the Defense Department.
The Pentagon said it didn’t even want the extra jets and that the money would be better spent on something the military really needs.
“If the Department of Defense does not want these aircraft, they will be eliminated from the bill,” said Rep. John Murtha, whose panel added the upgraded planes to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2010 budget request.