Tales from the Trail

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.

The First Draft: Obama’s bad news Thursday

FINANCIAL REGULATION/President Barack Obama woke up Thursday to find two new polls — the NBC News/Wall Street Journal and CBS News/New York Times — showing growing public concerns over the high rate of government spending and ballooning federal deficits.

Meanwhile, his big-ticket initiative to revamp the U.S. healthcare system hit a road bump in Congress, where a key Senate committee slowed its schedule for consideration of the measure in order to find a bipartisan approach to rein in its huge projected costs — more than $1 trillion and counting.

For Obama, the news was a sign, perhaps, that the public is beginning to hold him accountable for the many thorny issues he inherited from former President George W. Bush and becoming concerned about the mounting price tag — the Congressional Budget Office estimates the federal deficit could top $1.8 trillion this fiscal year.

Obama’s 2010 budget: A book with a villain?

Any good book needs a villain, and President Barack Obama’s 2010 budget was quick to try to identify one.
It was right on the title page above the words 2010 Budget: “A New Era of Responsibility.”
Take that, George W. Bush.
“For too long our budget has not told the whole truth about how precious tax dollars are spent,” Obama said in remarks ahead of the release of his $3.55 trillion spending blueprint, which projected a huge $1.17 trillion deficit.
“Large sums have been left off the books, including the true cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that kind of dishonest accounting is not how you run your family budgets at home. It’s not how your government should run its budgets either,” he said.
A senior official at the White House budget office, speaking anonymously, jumped on the bandwagon.
“We’ve inherited a real mess, both fiscally — a trillion dollar deficit — as well as an economic issue, which is severe economic downturn,” the official said. “These are the result of a profound irresponsibility, misplaced priorities and mistaken policies.”OBAMA/BUDGET
Hostile fire rarely goes unanswered.
“Trying to mask huge spending increases under the cloak of ‘fiscal responsibility’ is the height of audacity,” said Tony Fratto, Bush’s former White House spokesman specializing on economic issues.
“Our budgets were honest, open and transparent. Every dime spent was presented, debated, voted on and counted.”
“Putting temporary war spending in supplemental budgets was done to avoid permanently baking those appropriations into the Defense Department’s baseline budget,” Fratto added.

“That’s good budgeting, not a  ‘gimmick.’”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner listens to Obama make budget remarks); Reuters/Stelios Varias (OMB employee Dennis Johnson sits behind a stack of copies of Obama’s 2010 budget)