Pentagon Rejects Speaker Pelosi's Request for Military Aircraft

Various Republican officials in recent days have claimed that Pelosi has requested a C-32 plane for her travels -- a luxurious and specially configured version of the Boeing 757-200 commercial intercontinental airliner. The plane seats 45 passengers with business-class accommodations and a crew of up to 16, depending on the mission. It features a communications center, a fully enclosed stateroom for the primary passenger, a changing area, a conference facility, an entertainment system, and a convertible divan that seats three and folds out to a bed. The C-32 can cost as much as $22,000 an hour to operate. It's normally used by the first lady, the vice president, Cabinet officials and members of Congress upon request.

"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."

I'll C-20 and Raise You

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 Hastert Precedent

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.

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.'"

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