Reporting from Washington — Republican John A. Boehner, expected to be the next speaker of the House, announced Wednesday one way he intended to differentiate himself from Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
He said he would eschew military aircraft frequently used by Pelosi and instead fly commercial between his district and Washington — a small attempt to fulfill his party's pledge to rein in government spending.
"Over the last 20 years, I have flown back and forth to my district on commercial aircraft. And I'm going to continue to do that," the Ohio Republican said.
Security concerns, heightened by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, have often been cited for Pelosi's use of military aircraft, because her position is second in line to the presidency.
However, the House sergeant at arms said in a statement: "Based on the current security assessment, the House sergeant at arms is comfortable with leader Boehner utilizing commercial aircraft."
Pelosi encountered political turbulence after becoming speaker in 2007, when Republicans accused her of seeking to use a jumbo-size military jet to fly around in splendor with family and friends. "Pelosi One," a Republican teased at the time.
But Pelosi aides say that she has used military aircraft less than her predecessor, Republican Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois. An aide said Pelosi often flies commercial, including when traveling for political activities such as campaign fundraising. In 2009, she used military aircraft for 38 flights to and from her San Francisco district. She used commercial airlines for 71 flights throughout the country, according to her office.
Boehner's announcement recalled President Nixon's 1973 flight to Los Angeles aboard a United Airlines jumbo jet to set an example to the public during the energy crisis. During the flight, the president walked up and down the aisles, shaking hands with surprised passengers and signing autographs.
But about 100 police officers, FBI and Secret Service agents were needed to reinforce security at Los Angeles International Airport.