October 16, 2007

Senate Passes DeMint-McCaskill Amendment to Stop Government Travel Abuse

Legislation prohibits federal employee abuse that wasted $146 million on premium class air travel in just one year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) made the following statement after the Senate voted unanimously, 90-0, to pass their amendment to stop widespread travel abuse by employees of federal agencies. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that at least $146 million in taxpayer dollars were wasted through improper use of premium class air travel from July 2005 to June 2006.
“When federal employees travel first class, they treat taxpayers like second class citizens,” said Senator DeMint. “This is a blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars. Many Americans save for months to purchase coach tickets, yet some government employees seem to have no problem spending someone else’s so they can enjoy free drinks and recliners. Tax-dollars should be spent wisely or not spent at all, and this type of waste is exactly why Americans are fed up with a federal bureaucracy that has grown too large to police itself.”
“So many people in Washington treat tax dollars like Monopoly money, spending it like it’s not real” McCaskill said. “Spending tax payer money on first class airline tickets is the kind of unnecessary extravagance that has no place in government. Taxpayers foot the bill for this government and we ought to be mindful of that.”
Due to the high cost of premium class air travel, the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) include specific guidelines that restrict such travel to save taxpayer dollars. Employees are only able to fly first class or business class for specific reasons, such as when an individual has a physical disability that is certified by a medical professional.
As stated in the GAO Report, released in September: “A weak control environment and breakdowns in specific internal control procedures resulted in at least $146 million in improper first and business class travel by executive branch agencies over the 12-month period ending June 30, 2006.  Specifically, of the $230 million the federal government spent on over 53,000 premium class airline tickets (including at least one leg of premium class travel) from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006, 67 percent were either not properly authorized, not properly justified , or both.”
The DeMint-McCaskill amendment would prohibit any funds made available in the Fiscal Year 2008 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill from being used for travel by employees at federal agencies that does not comply with the existing federal regulations. This would make the abuse of air travel illegal and force federal agencies to pay closer attention to the travel guidelines and help put an end to abusive travel by federal employees.
Examples of abuse listed in the GAO report: