Jeff Merkley

05/21/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/21/2019 15:33

In Wake of New Revelations of EPA Waste on Luxurious Flights, Merkley, Kennedy Introduce Bipartisan ‘Fly Smart Act’

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) today announced the introduction of the Fly Smart Act, bipartisan legislation to prevent taxpayer dollars from being wasted on first-class flights.

The legislation would ban all federal executive branch employees, including cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking public servants, from using taxpayer dollars to purchase first- or business-class airline tickets except under exceptional circumstances.

'After news story after news story about the abuse of the current system, it's clear that Congress needs to act to make sure that not another dollar of taxpayer money is spent on luxury flights,' said Merkley. 'Public servants should use their positions to serve the public, not live the high life on the public dime.'

'Government workers shouldn't fly first class on the public's dime,' said Kennedy. 'Sometimes you have to create common sense through legislation. This bill will put an end to this frivolous practice and save taxpayer money.'

The Fly Smart Act requires all federal executive branch employees to fly coach, domestically and internationally, except under exceptional circumstances-for instance, if no alternative flight options can be found. All exceptions must be approved by a waiver that is publicly filed no later than 90 days following the travel, and blanket waivers will not be permitted.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) inspector general recommended that the agency consider trying to recover $124,000 in excessive travel expenses from former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. That amount represented the additional expenses that Pruitt imposed on taxpayers by his insistence on flying himself and his security detail in first- and business-class accommodations-all in just a 10-month period, from March 1 to December 31, 2017. Many of those flights included travel to and from his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

A one-page summary of the Fly Smart Act can be found here.