Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
If you're planning to fly after the new year, you may find a familiar face next to you on your next flight to San Francisco. That's because Speaker Nancy Pelosi will no longer have access to military aircraft and will instead fly commercial to her district after she becomes House minority leader, her office confirmed to Politics Daily.
For the last four years, Pelosi has had access to Air Force planes to jet home to her California district, one of the many perks that come along with being the most powerful member of the House of Representatives and second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
Pelosi's predecessor, former Speaker Dennis Hastert, also used military jets to travel back and forth to his Chicago district, but Rep. John Boehner, the next speaker, announced earlier this month
that he will fly commercial home to Ohio, a move that will help him avoid the political heat Pelosi has taken for using the ultra-convenient option of skipping commercial flights home.
But if Pelosi's flying experience is anything like Boehner's in the future, she still won't have to worry about pat-downs and security lines. The New York Times reported last week
that Boehner skipped the security line at Washington's Reagan National Airport before a trip to Cincinnati because of a Transportation Security Administration regulation that lets congressional leaders or members of Congress with armed security details bypass security check points.
Although she'll lose her military flying privileges, her security detail may be one of the perks (if armed guards can be considered a perk) that Pelosi will likely keep. Her staff does not discuss the security precautions she takes, but Boehner does have security as the minority leader and, as a rule, the Capitol Police provide security for any members of Congress who could have a heightened threat against them.
The other changes that Pelosi and her fellow Democrats in the leadership can expect next year will come in the form of reduced resources, specifically the offices where they'll work in the Capitol and allowances to hire staff. For staffing, the House allocates a lump sum to each party's leadership for salaries and expenses, which the leaders divide among themselves. Based on the current allocations, Pelosi can expect to have her staff allowance cut by about 40 percent to lead the smaller Democratic caucus.
And instead of the elegant suite of offices that Pelosi's team currently occupies, complete with french doors to an outdoor balcony, wood-burning fireplaces, and a majestic view of the National Mall, Pelosi and her staff will squeeze into a significantly smaller set of rooms overlooking the far less glamorous Library of Congress.
If there's any good news for Pelosi, besides the fact that she is still the leader of her party in the House, it's that her move to minority status may not be permanent.
History buffs will remember that Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn, the longest-serving House speaker in history, won and lost the speakership three times, trading power and perks with Republican minority leader and then Speaker Joseph Martin Jr. in the 1940s and 50s. The two swapped roles so many times that Rayburn eventually told Martin to keep the mall-facing speaker's offices, even after Rayburn won back the majority, because he had tired of packing and unpacking his boxes every time he won or lost an election.
The plush office suite remained in the minority's hands until the Republican revolution of 1994, when Newt Gingrich took over as speaker and decided that the prime real estate should belong to the speaker once again.