Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after introducing bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2210, with Congressman Raul Ruiz (CA-36) titled the Coach-Only Airfare for Capitol Hill Act (COACH) which would prohibit members of Congress from using official funds known as Member Representational Allowance (MRA) to purchase first-class airline tickets while traveling for official Congressional duties:
“Currently, there exists a loophole that allows members of Congress to fly first-class at the expense of hardworking taxpayers. Members of Congress are public servants of the people and should not be considered a privileged status. Elected leaders must be judicious in the travel expenses that are paid for with federal funds. Luxury airfare accommodations utilizing taxpayer monies would be inappropriate in any fiscal climate, but at a time of soaring deficits and with a federal debt in excess of $18 trillion, such expenditures are especially wasteful.
“Furthermore, if current regulations prevent men and women serving in the U.S. military from flying first-class, there is absolutely no reason members of Congress should be given a special exemption not offered to our nation’s heroes. It’s time to end the double standard and rein in this abuse.”
The full text of the COACH Act can be found HERE.
While the COACH Act would prohibit the use of official funds to purchase premium airfare, members and employees would be permitted to pay for upgrades at their personal expense. This bill allows for the exact same reasonable exceptions as those contained in the Executive Branch regulations, including accommodating a disability or other substantiated medical need.
On May 15, 2014, the Washington Post published a fact check on first-class travel for lawmakers. That article can be found HERE.
Fifteen original bipartisan cosponsors joined Congressman Gosar in introducing the COACH Act including: Representatives Raul Ruiz, Mark Amodei, Julia Brownley, Carlos Curbelo, Scott DeJarlais, Raul Grijalva, Walter Jones, David Joyce, Ann Kirkpatrick, Steve Pearce, Tom Rice, Pete Sessions, Kyrsten Sinema, Scott Tipton and Ryan Zinke.