House leadership called it "a mark of respect" for beloved Florida Congressman C.W. "Bill" Young.
But when 30 House members of both parties turned their backs on House business Thursday -- even floor votes -- and commandeered an expensive military airplane to attend Young's Largo funeral, it opened up the floodgates to jeering Twitter, Facebook and other biting online comment.
Some had belated messages for the pilot:
From Truth Porchhound: "Don't Stop at Florida -- Keep goin' to Gitmo, Cuba"
From Avatar: "Or maybe just open the door over Aligator Alley?"
From jrr: "Careful, you'll get the ASPCA after you. That would be cruelty to alligators!!"
Sequestration cuts supposedly put an end to the perquisite of Washington lawmakers traveling on military aircraft, but somebody, somehow (apparently House Speaker John Boehner) gave the green light to make an exception for Thursday's funeral.
Cmdr. Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, told Sunshine State News Friday he isn't aware of who made the arrangements and doesn't have the final numbers on the cost of the flight from Joint Base Andrews, but acknowledged the tab likely is "in the $10,000-an-hour ballpark." Lawmakers flew out in the morning and returned in the afternoon, as soon as the funeral ended.
The Washington Post figured out it was the speaker who gave the OK for a day off and a free flight on an amenity-filled military plane. The Post quoted a Boehner spokesman as saying, Given Representative Youngs long and distinguished service to his congressional district, and especially to the men and women of our armed forces, the rule against military aircraft is waived for this funeral.
From mojorisin69: "Congress to close down, fly Air Force planes ... Get the handcuffs"
From Ahcma back to mojorisin69: "Nah, fly them on C-130's where they have to sit IN THE BACK ON VERY UNCOMFORTABLE seats and it's VERY noisy with just a bucket to use if they have to go use a restroom, or a C-5 where they have to sit BACKWARDS."
From Gellig: "When they got back to DC Boehner should have locked them out of the Capitol for good. Oh wait! Boehner was on the plane too"
From Craig Garrett: "I just fell asleep and dreamed it was Bill who was alive and he was attending these House members funeral. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing."
Congress takes good care of its own. The funeral flight comes one week after the press and public crawled all over federal lawmakers for including a $174,000 payment to the widow of multimillionaire Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey. Lautenberg died in June, leaving an estate estimated at more than $50 million.
Youngs estimated wealth was far less than Lautenbergs; no doubt his widow, Beverly, will get a similar death gratuity, and it's doubtful anybody would complain. Such payments are a regular occurrence when members of Congress die in office.
Nevertheless, Tampa International Airport -- where the House members weren't -- landed several Delta and American Airlines flights from Washington, D.C., Thursday, leaving another commenter, Peter Vol, to observe, "Bedraggled people who don't count but have to pay for their commercial flights to funerals or whatever deplaned from half-full aircraft. ..."
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.