A Republican Congressman returning to Washington DC found himself in an awkward encounter yesterday when a fellow passenger questioned his decision to fly first class during the government shutdown.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) was travelling from Chicago to Washington DC when he was approached by a male passenger who asked whether the taxpayer had paid for the cost of the ticket.
In a video clip of the incident, the passenger can be heard saying: ‘Congressman, do you think it’s appropriate to fly first class while 57 TSA agents aren’t being paid?’
Rep. Davis remained silent after the question from the passenger, who then adds: ‘Taking that as a yes.’
‘Taxpayers paid for this flight? Fair enough.’
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security that manages the security of the traveling public, employs around 57,000 agents, who are currently working without pay.
Unscheduled absences of airport security workers hit 10 per cent on Sunday, a new record.
The agency today made a desperate plea for 250 people in 10 states to move from their closest airport to those that are particularly struggling, according to an internal email obtained by CNN.
A video clip shows a fellow passenger asking Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) (pictured in window seat) why he was travelling from Chicago to Washington DC on Tuesday in first class during the partial government shut down
A passenger on a Chicago-Washington DC flight chided a Republican congressman for flying first class during the partial government shut down
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) did not respond to the man’s questions but later his office said that the taxpayer had not paid for the flight as it was a free upgrade
Members of Congress are entitled to subsidized flights to and from their home districts to maintain good communication and contact with those they represent.
But a spokeswoman for Davis, Ashley Phelps, told HuffPost that Davis’ first-class ticket was not taxpayer-funded. According to Phelps, he bought a coach ticket which the airline upgraded free of charge due to his frequent flyer status.
Accepting the upgrade does not violate anti-corruption rules because frequent flyer status can be achieved by anyone and is not dependent on Davis’ position as a member of Congress.
Davis was among a small number of GOP defectors who voted with Democrats earlier this month on bills that would reopen parts of the government.
It is thought he was hoping to stave off Democratic challenges to his House seat and shore up his support after barely clinging on to his southern and central Illinois at the November elections.
Davis also tabled a bill last April that would have ended the threat of future government shutdowns, called the End Government Shutdowns Act.
‘Every time there is a threat of a government shutdown by either party, our country is losing,’ Davis said at the time.
Rodney Davis (second right) is sworn in on Capitol Hill on Jan. 3, 2019 during the opening session of the 116th Congress. Davis has said he will support measures to reopen the government in what some believe is an attempt to shore up support in his Illinois seat
‘Each threat of a government shutdown puts our troops and national security at risk, negatively impacts our markets, and jeopardizes our position as a world leader.’
However many people still expressed displeasure at the sight of the Congressman enjoying a first-class experience.
One Twitter user called the man who confronted him an ‘American hero’, while another said the Republican politician should ‘Do better… or resign.’
President Trump is insisting that federal agencies remain closed until Congress approves $5.7 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. But Democrats have refused to negotiate until Trump reopens the government.
The shut down has now lasted more than a month, beginning on December 22. It became the longest in US history on 12 January.
Trump is worried Democrats won’t agree to a wall compromise if he relents, while Democrats say Trump would use the shutdown tactic again if it works.
Senate leaders agreed to this week hold votes on duel proposals to reopen shut federal agencies.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set up the two showdown votes for Thursday, a day before some 800,000 federal workers are due to miss a second paycheck.
Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., (center), holds up a paper about President Donald Trump’s proposals for the border. Davis said he supports the President’s proposals because they would re-open government
One vote will be on his own measure, which reflects Trump’s offer to trade border wall funding for temporary protections for some immigrants, but which Democrats have rejected.
The second vote is set for a bill already approved by the Democratic-controlled House, which would reopen the government through to Feb. 8, with no wall money, to give bargainers time to talk.
Both measures are expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to pass, leaving little hope they represent the clear path out of the mess.
But they represent the first test of how deeply Senate Republicans’ back Trump’s mission to keep agencies closed until funding is secured for the border wall.
For Democrats, the votes will show whether there are any cracks in the so-far unified rejection of Trump’s demand.