Should Members of Congress Be Forced to Fly Coach?

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Sometimes life can be hard, especially for members of Congress who have to commute back and forth from Washington to their home states every week or so.

And a new bill introduced by Rep. Paul A. Gosar, R-Ariz., and three of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives - Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and John Barrow, D-Ga. - is not exactly going to make it easier.

The proposed "If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then So Should Congress Act" would prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to fly first-class.

"The bill is a continuation of my efforts to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government," co-sponsor Gosar said in a statement.

"It's a very simple bill. All it does is prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to purchase first-class airfare. At a time of massive deficits and with a national debt in excess of $17 trillion, members of Congress should not be using taxpayers' hard-earned money to buy luxury airline seats. If members of our military can't fly first class using taxpayer funds, neither should members of Congress."

Added Rep. Jones: "As representatives of the American people, we in Congress have a responsibility to wisely use the people's money. Members of the House and Senate should never secure their own luxury travel at taxpayer expense, but they especially should not do so when our nation is buried $17 trillion deep in debt."

At the start of each year, members of Congress are given a Member Representational Allowance (MRA) that provides money for things such as staff salaries, office space and travel. Members of Congress receive an average MRA of $1,243,560.14, of which $256,574 is a base allowance for travel, according to the Congressional Research Service. But it is up to the members to decide how much of the allowance goes toward travel.

The bill would not cut members' allowance but simply prohibit them from spending it on first-class tickets.

In addition, as The Washington Post noted, members of the government could still use their frequent flier miles (of which they have plenty) to upgrade their flights as they wish.

Members with disabilities or other significant medical needs and their staff would be exempt from the restrictions.