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Congress to spend millions on jets?

August 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Watchdog groups are criticizing Congress for spending money on expensive business jets. Two of the new jets would be used by members of Congress and other government VIPs.Members of Congress have spent a lot of time recently telling business executives to tone down their spending in the midst of a recession. But now there is a spending bill making its way through Congress that includes tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for airplanes to fly members of congress.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Congress is poised to spend $550 million dollars to buy eight new corporate jets, three of which are the highest performing passenger jets in the world. The Gulfstream 550 is similar to the planes Congress criticized the CEOs of automakers for using.

Congress is mandating that two of the new planes be assigned to the Andrews Air Force Base unit that flies government VIPs, including members of congress.

Taxpayer watchdog Pete Sepp, from the National Taxpayers Union, thinks it's ridiculous.

"Apparently Congress has created its own 'Cash for Clunkers' program. Turn in your old jets and taxpayers will buy you new ones," said Sepp.

The Pentagon asked for one of the planes for its new Africa command, but it was Congress that ordered the two that will be used to fly members of Congress.

"Congress would be the one who would best be equipped to answer why it is they have added additional Gulfstreams to the budget," said Geoff Morrell, Pentagon Press Secretary.

The planes are not in the Pentagon's budget, but were pushed by two congressmen from Georgia, which is where the planes will be built. The one congressman is a Democrat, the other a Republican. They have each received more than $10,000 over the last two years in campaign contributions from Gulfstream's parent company.

Congressman Kingston's office says buying the jets supports local industry and means jobs in his district.

In addition to the three Gulfstream planes, Congress also agreed to provide the Air Force with five new C-40s, which is the military equivalent of the 737 passenger plane. The Pentagon wanted only three.

The purchase of the planes must still be approved by the senate.

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