By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
It looks like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to have to fly commercial for a little while longer.
According to various news reports appearing throughout the day on Tuesday, House Democratic leaders have reversed themselves and will no longer seek to purchase three Gulfstream luxury business class passenger jets to be available for use by congressional lawmakers, including Speaker Pelosi, who has famously battled with the air force in previous years over aircraft made available to her.
As I wrote here on Thomas Jefferson Street on Thursday, a February 2007 ABC News report discussed the Pentagon's refusal to honor Pelosi's request "for use of a military plane that can fly to and from her home district in San Francisco without having to stop to refuel."
The purchasing provision, part of the FY 2010 Defense Department Appropriations Bill, specified $550 million for the three Gulfstream jets and five military-style versions of the Boeing 737 passenger plane. It was initially approved by the House just before it left town for the August recess.
The deal to create what congressional critics referred to privately as "Nancy Pelosi's Air Force," was widely criticized, even by Senate Democrats like Missouri's Claire McCaskill, who said the plan to buy the planes "kind of makes me sick to my stomach" while promising to help kill the measure once it reached the north side of the Capitol.
Through a spokesman, Speaker Pelosi indicated she supported the decision not to give the Defense Department any more jets than it had requested, a sentiment echoed by House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, who, once the deal hit the media spotlight, told the press, "If the Department of Defense does not want these aircraft, they will be eliminated from the bill."
The original Pentagon request was for $220 million to purchase one Gulfstream and three Boeing aircraft.