'A SILLY STORY'
White House Backs Pelosi In Tumult Over Plane
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi received some rare help yesterday from the White House against a barrage of Republican criticism over how she intends to get home.
For security reasons, the Democratic leader is entitled to fly to her San Francisco district on military planes, just as her predecessor, Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R), was able to fly home to Illinois on the planes. The House sergeant-at-arms, who helps oversee security for the House, suggested that flying nonstop would be the safest way home for Pelosi, who is next after the vice president in the line of presidential succession. That would require a larger plane than Hastert used.
Republicans, led by aggressive junior lawmakers, seized on the most extreme possibility: Pelosi's flying on the military equivalent of a Boeing 757 with the latest in travel comforts.
It would be too expensive, some of the Republican critics said. Others said it would be too polluting.
Flying in a large Air Force plane, Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) said, "appears to remove any spending controls from our operations and dramatically increases our impact on the environment, especially climate change."
Then the White House weighed in: Too much ado about nothing.
"This is a silly story," said presidential spokesman Tony Snow, "and I think it's been unfair to the speaker."
For her part, Pelosi said: "I have never asked for any larger plane. I have said that I am happy to ride commercial if the plane they have doesn't go coast to coast."
-- Associated Press