Energy Secretary Rick Perry told lawmakers that he was a frequent flier of Southwest Airlines and had only taken one charter flight at the request of a member of Congress.
“I make Southwest Airlines pretty happy,” Perry said Wednesday before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, adding he’d flown with Southwest “dozens of times” when traveling to his home in Roundtop, Texas.
“I think there are multiple pictures of me on the Drudge report that showed me at Southwest Airlines reading the Drudge report,” Perry said.
Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton asked Perry about his airline travel, as Trump administration officials have come under fire recently for their billing taxpayers for chartered flights.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after reports surfaced that he spent $400,000 on chartered flights since May. Including military flights, Price’s non-commercial travel cost taxpayers $1 million.
Price chartered planes “for multiple government business trips, even to fly distances often as short as from Washington to Philadelphia,” CNN reported.
Media reports have also targeted chartered flights taken by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
However, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found that former Obama officials also spent nearly $1 million on non-commercial flights.
Perry flew one chartered flight from Hazleton, Pa. to Portsmouth, Ohio in late September to tour energy sites. In total, Perry has spent $56,000 on chartered flights, which he said were taken when no commercial flights were available or met his schedule.
“I think we’re ok if energy secretary flies Southwest Airlines to Texas and commercial whenever possible,” Barton said during the hearing.
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