House leaders drop request for new passenger jets

House leaders will drop a plan to spend $550 million on new Air Force passenger jets for military and elected officials that the Pentagon didn’t ask for.

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The plan for four new planes, used to carry members of Congress, the executive branch and the military on trips abroad, came under fire from senators and the Defense Department. They said the new jets weren’t necessary and would instead take money away from other worthy military programs.

Two of the requested planes were C-37s, which are similar to the Gulfstream corporate jets that auto executives were criticized by Congress for using at the same time they asked for government bailouts.

“If the Department of Defense does not want these aircraft, they will be eliminated from the bill,” Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), whose defense appropriations bill included the proposal, said in a written statement.

The $636 billion bill passed the House on a 400-30 vote last month. It has yet to come up for a vote in the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports Murtha's decision, her spokesman said.

The Pentagon had included in its appropriations request for 2010 a proposal for four new passenger jets costing $220 million. Murtha’s bill called for an additional four planes to replace other jets.

“These aircraft will not increase the overall passenger aircraft fleet, but instead will replace older aircraft that have both safety and maintenance issues,” Murtha said.

Murtha argued that the new jets would have saved money since they would have had cost less to operate than the older planes.