House Speaker John Boehner plans to restrict lawmakers’ use of military aircraft for official travel after federal spending cuts begin tomorrow, his spokesman said.
“The speaker believes this is the prudent and responsible course of action, and it goes above and beyond the spending cuts the House will be implementing” as the automatic cuts take effect, Boehner’s spokesman, Kevin Smith, said in an e-mail.
Boehner made the announcement during a closed meeting of House Republicans yesterday, said a party leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the session was private. The speaker, an Ohio Republican, told lawmakers their office budgets would be reduced and their use of military aircraft for official travel would be curtailed, the aide said.
Congressional delegations use military aircraft for trips to Afghanistan and Iraq or to conduct oversight in other parts of the world where the U.S. military is engaged. All overseas trips by congressional delegations on military aircraft require Boehner’s approval.
Under the new policy, House members won’t be able to fly directly from the U.S. to other countries on military aircraft, said an Armed Services Committee aide who spoke on condition of anonymity. Instead, they would fly on commercial airlines to an another country, such as Kuwait, to connect with a regularly scheduled military aircraft, the aide said.
Oversight trips to North Africa won’t be curtailed by the policy, the committee aide said. Increased terrorist activity in Libya has prompted heightened concern among lawmakers about security in North Africa and elsewhere on the continent, such as Mali, where the U.S. military has provided support to French troops that were fighting Islamic rebels.
Congressional trips typically occur when the House and Senate are in recess. Some lawmakers make round trips to Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, and the nearby Bagram Airfield, over long weekends.
The automatic spending cuts will total $85 billion for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year and amount to $1.2 trillion over nine years. About half would come from defense and the rest from discretionary domestic spending.
Congress will be treated like federal agencies with cuts to such items as committee budgets and building maintenance. Lawmakers’ salaries won’t be affected.
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