June 14, 2007

Pentagon Pushes Back On Pelosi's Perks

For a woman who promised an end to the free ride for politicians in Washington DC, Nancy Pelosi seems awfully intent on providing -- free rides. Pelosi wants the Pentagon to provide air travel to the adult children of House members without reimbursement when the spouses cannot accompany them on trips. The Pentagon says that request is against longstanding policy:

“It has been longstanding policy that, in the absence of a congressional spouse, the adult child of a member of Congress may accompany the member on official U.S. government travel abroad for protocol reasons and without reimbursing the U.S. Treasury,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said. “Speaker Pelosi believes that a modern policy must reflect the professional responsibilities or health realities that might prevent a spouse from participating, and instead permit an adult child to fulfill the protocol needs of the official trip.”

Pentagon officials say the policy is that the Treasury must be reimbursed at commercial rates for children who accompany members on such trips, often called codels.

Pelosi’s office inquired about such travel on June 1, according to a Department of Defense memo obtained by The Hill. In a June 8 memo, the head of legislative affairs for the Pentagon, Robert L. Wilkie, told Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he sees Pelosi’s question as a first step toward challenging the policy.

“We were told that the Speaker would expect that members’ children (of married and unmarried [members of Congress]) would not have to reimburse the Treasury,” Wilkie wrote. “We expect future challenges from the House leadership on this policy.”

Pelosi has an odd fixation about air travel. In the first five months, she has demanded two changes to air travel policy that expands the cost to the American taxpayer. The first expanded the already-dubious service offered to her predecessor, Denny Hastert, who justified a private military air service for himself on the basis of being third in succession to the Presidency. Pelosi demanded that the Pentagon also include her staff, relatives, and other members of the California House delegation.

Now she wants to give her colleagues another perk, and it's nonsense. As Dan Stanley, a former assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the Pentagon, tells the Hill, lawmakers to this point only rarely travel with children of any age, and always as an exception that requires an invitation from the Secretary of Defense. Other than George Bush's daughters, who cannot travel commercial for security reasons, all executive-branch family travel on military flights gets reimbursed. Why should the legislative branch have an exception?

Public Citizen, a watchdog group on government behavior, already has a complaint with the IRS regarding free family travel for politicians. That complaint focuses on lobbyist-provided travel, which PC believes should be taxable income for those with no official capacity on such trips. Craig Holman of PC sees no difference between privately-funded and publicly-funded air travel, and proclaims himself "disappointed" that Pelosi has acted to expand legislative perks rather than restrict them.

Why does Nancy Pelosi think you and I should pay for their travel? For a woman who talked about a "culture of corruption" for months in the run-up to the midterms, the Pelosi culture indulges in a rather imperial view of perks and freebies.


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This one just boggles me. Pentagon officials are bracing for a fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over her desire to allow lawmakers’ adult children to tag along on taxpayer-funded travel for free. Pelosi wants them to be able to fill t... [Read More]

Comments (9)

Posted by ddh | June 14, 2007 6:50 AM

Pelosi's attitude about her travel on military aircraft suggests she thinks that she has a right to x number of seats on the plane or that she is just giving others a lift since "her" plane is going that way anyway. She doesn't see that even her ride is a privilege.

Posted by morgan norval | June 14, 2007 6:59 AM

Come on, it's easy to explain Pelosi's attitude, she's a liberal and liberals always want to spend other people's money for their pet schemes--free air fare for their brats fits well within liberal ideology.

Posted by onlineanalyst | June 14, 2007 7:36 AM

It's "for the children". Riiiiiight!

Nancy Pelosi's contempt for all things military is well documented.

Posted by ordi | June 14, 2007 7:40 AM

This should help explain it:

Her daughter Christine, a former chief of staff to Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney and an elected member of the Democratic National Committee, often travels with Pelosi and offers strategic advice.


Posted by Larry J | June 14, 2007 7:44 AM

Pelosi is the living embodiment of the saying, "All animals are created equal...only some are more equal than others."

Posted by Larry J | June 14, 2007 7:48 AM

Pelosi is the living embodiment of the saying, "All animals are created equal...only some are more equal than others."

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | June 14, 2007 8:41 AM

Whoever flies one of Pelosi's junkets ought to find that extra bit of turbulence during the entire flight to and from DC to discourage abuse.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Pelosi, but the next 2400mi are going to be a bit choppy today. Wheeee! Did you feel that one? Hadn't really expected the bottom to drop out like that. I guess 'choppy's a bit of an understatement. So, sit back and well get you home ASAP. If you need an extra hospitality bag, please let the staff know. Thank you for flying U.S. Air Force."

Posted by Al in St. Lou | June 14, 2007 2:22 PM

I'm missing something. I don't understand the difference between the status quo as described by "It has been longstanding policy that, in the absence of a congressional spouse, the adult child of a member of Congress may accompany the member on official U.S. government travel abroad for protocol reasons and without reimbursing the U.S. Treasury” and what Pelosi wants now.

[Lightbulb comes on!]

Oh, my guess is that the "longstanding policy" is talking about using a commercial airline where the government pays for the tickets. So under the current policy, a congresscritter can take an adult child instead of a spouse without paying for the plane ticket if they fly commercially, but if the congresscritter qualifies to take a military aircraft, then the spouse can ride for free, but an adult child taking the spouse's place has to pay the equivalent commercial fare. Okay, I don't see what's wrong with Pelosi's request. It sounds to me as though the current policy is just a bureaucratic oversight.

Oh, but I really am a conservative. I don't think any congresscritter should get to ride a military plane unless it's by invitation of the Secretary of Defense, except in the case of Air Force One where it should be by invitation of the President. The Air Force is not a free charter service for congressmen or congresswomen--at least, it shouldn't be!

Posted by NoDonkey | June 14, 2007 3:13 PM

Pelosi should be given a free ride on a military aircraft - specifically, one out of Pope AFB that the 101st Airborne uses to train.

Then give her a free parachute lesson - sans the parachute. Let her use the hibab she donned for her boyfriend Assad.

I see it as a win-win.