Updated: Congress Flying High on Taxpayers' Dime... Literally.

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Posted: Aug 07, 2009 4:12 PM
Earlier this year, Members of Congress chastised the CEOs of America's auto companies who traveled via corporate-sponsored private jets to Washington.  But apparently Congress is not so averse to taking advantage of private air travel, especially when it's sponsored by taxpayers.  At the end of July, the House of Representatives allotted nearly $200 million to the Air Force to purchase three elite Gulfstream jets to be used in ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress. 

According to Roll Call, the Air Force had requested one Gulfstream 550 jet--costing a cool $65 million--as part of an upgrade to its passenger air service.  But the House Appropriations Committee took it upon themselves to be extra charitable, adding an extra $132 million to the Air Force budget to purchase two more planes--but these planes were to be kept exclusively in the DC-metro area for use by Members of Congress and other "top-level" government officials.

Outrageous?  Absolutely.  It's also pretty convenient for Members that the money they set aside for their private jets could be treated as an addition to the 2010 Defense Department appropriations bill, instead of being rightly reported as an earmark. 

Exclusive health care plan? Check.  Private jet service?  Check.  These people sure are bringing a whole new meaning to "public service."

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal reports today that Congress "plans to spend $550 million to buy eight jets, a substantial upgrade to the fleet used by federal officials at a time when lawmakers have criticized the use of corporate jets by companies receiving taxpayer funds."