Bill would ban lawmakers from flying first class using taxpayer dollars

FILE -An American Airlines airplane takes off at Miami International Airport in Miami.

FILE -An American Airlines airplane takes off at Miami International Airport in Miami.  (AP2010)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation aimed at preventing members of Congress from flying first class using taxpayer funds. 

The bill, titled, "If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then so Should Congress Act," was introduced by Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; Raul Ruiz, D-Calif.; John Barrow, D-Ga.; and Walter Jones, R-N.C., in a bid to end the purchase of first-class flight seats with taxpayer money.

"All it does is prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to purchase first class airfare," Gosar said in a statement. "At a time of massive deficits and with a national debt in excess of $17 trillion, members of Congress should not be using taxpayers' hard-earned money to buy luxury airline seats."

The measure seeks to implement the same restrictions for air travel for members of congress and their staff that are required for travel by White House employees.

The legislation allows for exceptions to first-class travel, such as accommodating a disability or other substantiated medical need, according to a news release.

"As representatives of the American people, we in Congress have a responsibility to wisely use the people’s money," Jones said in a statement. "Members of the House and Senate should never secure their own luxury travel at taxpayer expense, but they especially should not do so when our nation is buried $17 trillion deep in debt."

Earlier this month, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., introduced legislation that would prohibit lawmakers from buying first-class airline seats using their congressional allowances for staff, travel and office expenses, The Hill reported.

Under Duckworth's proposal, lawmakers would be allowed to use the funds on first-class tickets if the flight is five hours or more. The measure also includes exceptions for medical disabilities and other "exceptional circumstances."