"Just a month into the new Democratic majority, we are talking about the costs of an arrogance of office," said Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam of Florida at a briefing for reporters Tuesday. "The same week she is talking about fiscal responsibility, she is requesting a jumbo jet to taxi her back and forth from her district, something that is a major deviation from the previous speaker. Certainly, it is the interest of someone who is in the presidential succession to have access to a secure aircraft, but this is not a routine military charter flight. This is Air Force Three."
Late Wednesday afternoon, one of Pelosi's closest allies in the House, Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., chairman of the key Appropriations Committee subcommittee on defense, told CNN that the Pentagon was making "a mistake" by leaking information unfavorable to the speaker "since she decides on the allocations for the Department of Defense."
House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., seems to be the one who first publicly raised the notion that the plane Pelosi requested is the C-32.
"I understand on this particular airplane there is a bedroom," Blunt said.
"I hadn't heard that," Putnam said.
"There is a stateroom," Blunt said. "It is kind of a flying Lincoln bedroom."
A Blunt aide said he first heard that the plane Pelosi requested had a bedroom on CNN's "Lou Dobbs" Monday evening. "She could take a circus with her, for crying out loud," Dobbs said.
A Democratic aide maintained that this was all nonsense.
"The Republicans and the administration are intentionally mischaracterizing this," the aide said. "This is a security issue, and that's it. They've got nothing else to talk about so they make this up."
The controversy began in December 2006, when House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood first told Pelosi that the Air Force had made an airplane available to Hastert to travel to and from his district after 9/11.
But, Livingood said in a statement, he "was uncertain of the rules and guidelines governing use of the plane" so he called the Pentagon and Air Force to seek clarification of the guidelines. Subsequently, several members of Pelosi's staff and members of the Office of the Sergeant at Arms met with officials from the Pentagon and the Air Force liaison office to discuss the rules and guidelines that governed Hastert's use of a plane.
"We're still waiting to hear back from the Air Force on those guidelines," said Brendan Daly, communications director for Pelosi.
On Feb. 1, unnamed administration and congressional sources leaked to the Washington Times that Pelosi was "seeking regular military flights not only for herself and her staff but also for relatives and for other members of the California delegation. A knowledgeable source called the request 'carte blanche for an aircraft any time.'"
On Tuesday, Feb. 6, House Republican leaders began accusing Pelosi of arrogance and hypocrisy, and calling the plane "Pelosi One."
Pelosi and her aides said all she cares about is that the plane is able to fly direct to her home district in San Francisco without having to stop and refuel. Capt. Herb McConnell, the spokesman for the 89th Airlift wing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, said the C-20 is sometimes "able to make a coast-to-coast flight at times during the year, but not when there are strong headwinds such as during the winter."