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Tipsheet

Are Taxpayers Funding Natalie Biden's Spring Break Trip to San Diego?

Tasos Katopodis/Pool Photo via AP

President Biden is known to spend time with his extended family (except for Hunter Biden's illegitimate child — you know, the one the President and First Lady still refuse to acknowledge) during his frequent long-weekend trips to his properties in Delaware. How nice.

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The president also, from time to time, has brought his children and grandchildren along with him on official travel. Such is the case this week as President Biden jets off to San Diego, California, to join Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom to finalize the AUKUS partnership and participate in a DNC reception. 

On this trip, Biden brought along his granddaughter Natalie Biden, the eldest daughter of the president's late son Beau. This we learned during a gaggle held by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre aboard Air Force One on the way from Washington to San Diego. 

When asked why Natalie was tagging along, Jean-Pierre noted that "as you know, the president's family tends to travel with him, pretty often, so that's not uncommon" before explaining "Natalie is on spring break and so she joined her- she wanted to spend time with her 'Pop,' so she joined her 'Pop' on this trip."

How nice for Natalie to have a spring break trip to San Diego aboard Air Force One. But that raised a follow-up question: When members of Biden's extended family accompany him on official travel, does the president or a member of his family reimburse the federal government — taxpayers, that is — for his family members' travel expenses?

"That's a good question," Jean-Pierre responded. She did not, however, have a good answer.

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"I would have to look into how it works for members of the president's family, I actually don't know," Jean-Pierre said. "I actually don't know how that works," she added.

So, Biden's granddaughter flew on Air Force One and is traveling with the president to and from San Diego, official events, and a DNC fundraiser, and Karine Jean-Pierre doesn't know whether Natalie's cross-country spring break trip is being paid for by taxpayers who've been crushed by inflation and are having to slim down their own vacation plans?

There's been much ado about incumbent presidents of both parties using Air Force One for campaign trips, or, as Biden is doing on Monday, pairing official travel with a partisan reception to defray unofficial travel costs. Campaigns are supposed to reimburse taxpayers for unofficial travel aboard Air Force One, but the formula used by the Treasury Department to determine whether or how much of a trip is "official" and how much needs to be reimbursed is not public. What's more, reporters who travel aboard Air Force One while covering the president pay for their travel.

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As for Natalie, precedent suggests that taxpayers should be reimbursed by the president for personal travel by family members on Air Force One at a "first-class rate," according to an IRS ruling from the Nixon era. 

Natalie Biden, apparently not participating in the trip in an official capacity nor a campaign capacity, seems like she would fall under that ruling and should see Biden reimburse taxpayers for her seat at a first-class rate. But is Biden doing so? His press secretary doesn't know — even though, as Jean-Pierre pointed out, "the president's family tends to travel with him pretty often." So, Biden's family is flying with him "pretty often," yet she can't say whether taxpayers are being reimbursed or are footing the bill for Biden family vacations.

Since Karine Jean-Pierre doesn't know "how that works," Americans are left to wonder until she figures it out. 

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