Bill would prohibit Buttigieg from private air travel

Politics

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, center, speaks during a briefing at the White House.

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) filed her first bill of the 118th Congress on Wednesday that would require Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and his team to fly commercial only.

The press release said it would only require Buttigieg to fly commercially until the FAA reauthorization is completed, which would give time for him and his staff to investigate Southwest and the FAA.

“If according to Sec. Buttigieg, on MSNBC earlier today, the FAA systems are constantly being updated, and if they’re so good, then why is he flying private all the time?” Mace said on the issue. “Until we see the Southwest Airlines debacle investigated; until the FAA software glitches are fixed; and until we complete the FAA reauthorization later this year, the Secretary of Transportation should be required to fly commercial just like everyone else.” 

According to the release, Buttigieg has flown private approximately 20 times in the past six months.

However, a Department of Transportation spokesperson told NewsNation that out of the 129 flights the secretary has taken, he flew commercial on 111 of them.

“However, there are specific instances where the DOT Ethics Office approves use of the 9-seat FAA plane when it is a more efficient and/or less expensive way for the Secretary and accompanying personnel to travel. This approach has saved taxpayer dollars,” the spokesperson said.

The bill, Commercial Cabins for Cabinet Members Act, was filed in response to the recent transportation meltdowns that Buttigieg has faced over the past few months, including the FAA NOTAM system failure that caused a ground stop on Wednesday.

While President Joe Biden ordered a “top priority” investigation into the FAA outage and the Senate is set to review it, many other companies, such as U.S. Travel Association, are calling on lawmakers to “modernize” the nation’s travel infrastructure.

But this is just the latest headache for travelers in the U.S., who faced flight cancellations over the holidays amid winter storms and a breakdown with staffing technology at Southwest Airlines. 

Mace said a “serious conversation” about technology and aviation is needed after these incidents.

“We want to make sure that our technology works, that our technology is safe, our technology is secure,” she said. “This cannot continue, especially with this being just on the heels of the Southwest Airlines debacle.”

If outdated technology is the issue, Mace said she wants to hear Buttigieg say that he and the FAA will come to Congress and brief them on the matter.

The FAA authorization is set to expire Sept. 30. Lawmakers have routinely extended the FAA legal authority to operate before reaching an agreement on authorization, but this outage may put pressure on Congress to take action.

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