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House security chief: Pelosi didn't ask for plane; I did

Story Highlights

• House sergeant at arms says he requested plane for Pelosi
• Pelosi accused of asking for more expensive plane than her predecessor's
• Pelosi is striking back against claims
• "I think this is much ado about not a whole lot," says White House spokesman
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not request a larger plane for personal use to travel cross-country without stopping, Bill Livingood, the House sergeant at arms, said Thursday.

Livingood said the request was his, and he made it for security reasons.

"The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable," Livingood, who has been at his post for 11 years, said in a written statement.

"I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue," the statement said.

Pelosi is striking back against accusations she asked for a plane larger and more expensive than the one used by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a claim published last week in The Washington Times.(Watch Pelosi call the GOP charges "a myth" Video)

The Times article, headlined "Pelosi's Power Trip -- Non-stop Nancy Seeks Flight of Fancy," led the Republican National Committee to send out a research briefing and blast Pelosi on the House floor.

The article said Pelosi asked the Pentagon for "routine access" to a military plane "not only for herself and her staff, but also for relatives and for other members of the California delegation," quoting sources "familiar with the discussions."

"I have never asked for a larger plane," Pelosi said. "This is a myth that they are talking about on the floor."

The White House also stood behind Pelosi.

"As speaker of the House, she is entitled to military transport and ... the proper arrangements are being made between the Sergeant of Arms Office in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Defense," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

"We think it's appropriate," he added. "And so, again, I think this is much ado about not a whole lot. It is important for the speaker to have this kind of protection and travel."

On Wednesday, the Pentagon sent a letter to Pelosi's office with guidance about travel regulations. The letter said the military would make "every effort" to provide a non-stop flight to Pelosi's home district, but "such support is subject to aircraft type and availability and therefore may not always be guaranteed." (Read the Pentagon's letter to Speaker Pelosi -- PDF)

Pelosi's family would have to reimburse the Air Force if they used the aircraft, the letter stated.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said on Thursday that he's planning hearings this spring on executive and congressional travel on military aircraft.

Murtha said he's requested from the Defense Department records on travel and logistics from the past two years. He asked the Defense Department to hand those over within a month.

Some House Republicans on Thursday were pressing for an amendment on the floor on Pelosi's use of a military plane, according to Murtha.

Murtha predicted that Pelosi would end up getting a plane that would be able to fly across country without stopping to refuel.

"I'm seldom wrong on these kinds of predictions," he said.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been accused of requesting an Air Force C-32 so she could fly home to California without refueling.




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