FIRST ON FOX: A new Republican bill in the Senate aims to stop top Department of Transportation (DOT) officials including Secretary Pete Buttigieg from using private government planes on taxpayers’ dime.
“Secretary Buttigieg seems averse to traveling on the very commercial airlines that his department oversees. It’s far past time that Secretary Buttigieg travel commercially instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on private jet flights,” Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., told Fox News Digital.
“It will also fix a loophole to bring more transparency in reporting the costs of these flights,” Schmitt added. The “loophole” Schmitt is referring to is a cost-calculating policy the department uses which he said had been used to make travel cost for officials appear cheaper than it was, his office said.
The legislation would also stop Buttigieg and other DOT officials from using private flights except for in times of emergency or if such a flight is projected to cost at least 5% less than a commercial alternative.
Schmitt said he hopes the bill will “make Secretary Buttigieg consider the most fiscally responsible option when flying on official business.”
It comes after Fox News Digital reported late last year that Buttigieg had flown aboard taxpayer-funded jets at least 18 times while in office.
Buttigieg traveled across the country — visiting Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire, among other states — and out of the country using a private jet fleet managed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to flight tracking data reviewed by Fox News Digital. The flight records align with Buttigieg’s schedule of external and public engagements obtained by government watchdog group Americans for Public Trust (APT).
His predecessor, Trump administration Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, was criticized for using the same jets on seven occasions in 2017, costing taxpayers nearly $94,000, Politico reported at the time. And Trump-appointed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after reportedly taking 26 private jet flights that same year, costing taxpayers about $1.2 million.
The DOT’s Inspector General announced earlier this year that he would be looking into the flights after a letter from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Buttigieg welcomed the probe in a statement posted to Twitter.
“Glad this will be reviewed independently so misleading narratives can be put to rest. Bottom line: I mostly fly on commercial flights, in economy class. And when I do use our agency’s aircraft, it’s usually a situation where doing so saves taxpayer money,” the Transportation Secretary said.