Bill would limit lawmakers’ first-class travel

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced a measure that would prevent lawmakers from booking first-class airline seats using their congressional allowances.

"As members of Congress, we lead by example," Duckworth said. "With so many working families out there trying to make ends meet, it’s important that we not spend tax payer dollars on luxuries like first class air travel. This bill is a small step we can take to show the American people we are here to work for them."

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Each House member receives a representational allowance each year for staff, travel and office expenses. In recent years, each House member's office has received an average of about $1 million annually.

However, under Duckworth's proposal, members would only be allowed to use the funds for first-class domestic airline travel under certain conditions. Those would include if the flight is 5 hours or more, first-class seats are necessary to accommodate a medical disability, or the travel is urgent and no other seats are available. 

There would also be leeway for "exceptional circumstances," such as security needs. Purchases of first-class seats would also be permitted if they result in overall cost savings, such as "lost productive time while awaiting coach-class accommodations."

Duckworth's proposal came as the House considered the fiscal 2015 Legislative Branch appropriations bill Thursday.

The Illinois Democrat also submitted an amendment that would prevent members from using their allowance for first-class air travel unless the House Ethics Committee approves it. It was not made in order, however.