Dem senator introduces bill to publicize Trump officials' flying

Dem senator introduces bill to publicize Trump officials' flying
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A Democratic senator introduced legislation on Friday that would mandate Trump administration officials share their travel schedule and flight class publicly in an effort to curb improper government spending.

The Federal Travel Transparency Act introduced by Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthMissouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers Democrats ignore Asian American and Pacific Islander voters at their peril Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall MORE (D-Ill.) seeks to prevent federal officials from misusing taxpayer dollars. The bill specifically nods to the heads of the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Treasury Department, all of whom have been criticized for extravagant travel on chartered planes or in first class.

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"Every public servant has a responsibility to be a good steward of public dollars but it’s clear that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE and his Cabinet secretaries do not always see it that way,” Duckworth said in a statement. “When Trump Administration officials spend thousands of taxpayer dollars to charter a private or military plane or purchase a first-class ticket, they should — at the very least — be required to tell the American people who are bankrolling their luxurious travel why it is necessary."

Specifically, the bill would require the government to disclose on a public website the official air travel activities of agency leaders every few months. The disclosures would include trip duration, destinations and the number of employees on the trip as well as justification for the travel and the associated costs.

Duckworth argued that the new process established under the bill would cut back on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests made for travel summaries and in turn save government resources and time.

A number of government agencies including the EPA and the Interior Department have blamed a backlog in FOIA requests for slow response times, often coming months later than legally required.

A government watchdog is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Advisory panel pushes park service to privatize campgrounds | Dems urge Perry to keep lightbulb efficiency rules | Marshall Islands declares national climate crisis Committee pushes National Park Service to privatize campgrounds Overnight Energy: Warren unveils T environmental justice plan | Trump officials eliminate board on smart grids | Proposed Trump rule aims to ease restrictions on mineral mining MORE for using taxpayer-funded charter and military planes to travel between work events and personal and political appearances, including a trip he took to Las Vegas over the summer to talk to a professional hockey team. The department is also under fire for signing off on a $139,000 project to update doors in Zinke's office.

EPA administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittSierra Club sues EPA over claim that climate change 'is 50 to 75 years out' EPA on 'forever chemicals': Let them drink polluted water EPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year' MORE is under fire this week for spending $105,000 on first-class flights in his first year in Washington, which does not include the cost of first-class travel for his security team. A government watchdog also previously filed an ethics complaint against him for authorizing the EPA to spend what is now estimated to be $43,000 to build a soundproof booth in his office. 

EPA declined to give a comment but pointed to interview's Pruitt previously did with CBS and Portland-based radio host Lars Larson, where the administrator said his next flight would be on coach, and compared his international travel total to that of his predecessors in the Obama administration.

Interior did not respond to a request for comment.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate The Hill's Morning Report — Arrest of Giuliani associates triggers many questions Trump says Gowdy can't join his legal team 'for a couple months' MORE (R-S.C.), has requested information from both departments regarding Zinke's and Pruitt's spending. Gowdy sent his request to Zinke Friday. EPA says it has responded to Gowdy's request.

 

Duckworth argued that her bill would help bring transparency to Cabinet officials' spending practices.

"By shining a light on the travel practices of Trump Cabinet officials, this bill would protect taxpayers from the Trump Administration’s wasteful spending on needless luxury travel," she said.