More fun than a bucket of puppies!
House GOP Blasts Pelosi for Plane Request
Feb 09 10:40 AM US/Eastern
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- For most of the past five weeks, House Republicans could do little else but watch as majority Democrats passed major legislation without giving them a chance to propose changes or offer alternatives.
So when they finally got a chance Thursday to air pent-up frustrations over how Democrats were running things, the Republicans decided to make some noise _ and how.
They aimed high, all the way to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The California Democrat went before the House Science Committee in the morning to champion her commitment to do something about global warming, a rare appearance for a leader of the House.
She did so as reports swirled on Capitol Hill that she had requested a bigger, swankier government airplane than her Republican predecessor had used for trips back to her home district when Congress isn't meeting.
For Republicans, feeling muzzled and still blue over losing control of the House, the irony was too good to ignore.
A waste of the taxpayers' money, some said, claiming her trips would cost $15 million a year if she used planes such as the military version of the Boeing 757-200. In its commercial configuration the 757-200 usually seats 175-190 passengers.
Pelosi should lead by example, argued others, because a bigger plane consumes more fuel and contributes more to the global warming she expresses concern about.
"The jet that Pelosi has produces 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide an hour, far more than the previous speaker used," said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. Pelosi's predecessor was Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.
"By commandeering a huge government plane for her personal transport to California, this is totally contradictory to the alarm bells we heard her ringing in the Science Committee just a few hours ago," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said.
Democrats said the debate on the plane, which took place on a Republican amendment to a bill to promote ethanol and other alternative fuels, was "silly." White House spokesman Tony Snow also weighed in, also calling the plane controversy "silly."
The Republicans' amendment to the alternative fuels bill amounted to a dig at Pelosi; it specifically mentioned passenger planes "capable of transcontinental flights."
"I do not question the imperative of providing for the safety of the speaker of the United States House of Representatives," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind. "On the subject of whether this is a silly debate, I think it is silly to question the right of the minority to question public expenditures."
And so it went for nearly two hours. The bill passed 400-3, with the amendment included.
Amid the hubbub, House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood, who is charged with the speaker's security, issued a statement saying it actually was he, not Pelosi, who had requested that the military provide the larger plane so Pelosi could fly nonstop to San Francisco.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Pentagon agreed to provide the House speaker, who is second in the line of presidential succession behind the vice president, with a military plane for added security during trips home. Hastert flew in a commuter-size Air Force jet.
"The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making nonstop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable," Livingood said in a statement. "I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue."
The Pentagon informed Pelosi's staff this week that she would get a plane, based on availability, and that nonstop service could not be guaranteed.
Pelosi said Thursday that she'd be happy to fly commercial.
"We never asked for a larger plane. This is a myth that (the Republicans) are talking about on the floor," she said. "They have nothing to say to the American people about the war, the economy, global warming and the rest. So they have this game they're playing."
Back on the House floor, 83-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, offered that it probably would be cheaper if he rode the bus home to Dallas every weekend, but that that issue could be debated some other time.
"The only airplane I'm thinking about," he said, "is the one I wanted to be on at 12:30, heading for Texas."