What Do Members of Congress Drive?


Image Credit: Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

What you drive can say a lot about you, your lifestyle, your income, and even your values. The question, brought up in a recent NY Times article, is what would you choose to drive if the lease were entirely subsidized by taxpayers? The answer, it turns out, is revealing.

First of all, why do taxpayers subsidize the use of vehicles by members of the House of Representatives (the Senate does not provide this perk)? There's no real good reason why, but since the 1980s the benefit has been part of the money provided for their office operations. And the benefit, which 125 members of the House make use of, is quite handsome: "Not only does the federal government pick up the cost of the lease and the gas, but also general maintenance, insurance, registration fees and excess mileage charges." Of course, in this time of high gas prices and heightened sensitivity to environmental issues, it would be hard to justify the purchase of large, inefficient and expensive vehicles, right?

Some examples of what members of the House drive after the fold.Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat representing Brooklyn and Queens, leases a 2008 Chevy Impala for $219 a month, while Rep. Michael R. McNulty, a Democrat from Albany, "gets around in a 2007 Mercury Mariner hybrid, a sport utility vehicle, for $816 a month." On the one hand, the Impala is a frugal choice, while the Mariner Hybrid is a fairly fuel-efficient, although more expensive, selection (it gets a little over 25 MPG).

It should be noted that "In 2007, the House adopted a rule requiring members to choose cars from a list of low-emissions vehicles approved by the Environmental Protection Agency." This prompted some Representatives to trade in their cars for more "eco-friendly" models, although their rationale was sometimes dubious.

One Representative, for instance, traded in a 2005 Lincoln Town Car for a 2008 Lincoln MKX, claiming that fuel-efficiency was behind the decision, but unfortunately there is little difference--in fact, no difference--between the two vehicles when it comes to miles-per-gallon.

Other House members have chosen a car "that doesn’t cost taxpayers an extravagant amount," while others are more concerned about service and reliability, while still others safety. In other words, they make their purchases based on many of the same criteria all of us do--albeit without the constraint of cost (then again, they run the risk of public outcry if they are caught spending lavishly).

And then there's Charles B. Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who uses a 2004 Cadillac Deville that is "17 feet long with a 300-horsepower engine and seats five comfortably." And his reason for driving such a behemoth?

Mr. Rangel said he frequently offers rides to constituents so they can discuss their concerns in the luxurious confines of his DeVille.

'I want them to feel that they are somebody and their congressman is somebody,' Mr. Rangel explained. 'And when they say, ‘This is nice,’ it feels good.'

Granted, more important than what they drive is what they legislate. So while it would be nice to see congressmen and women walk the walk, it would be sufficient for them to pass strong climate legislation, increase incentives for renewables, and so on.

Via: ::NY Times

See Also: ::McCain Wants A Gas Tax Holiday; What About the Dems?, ::Pay As You Drive (PAYD) Insurance: A Way to Address Negative Externalities, ::Climate Change Drives Up Insurance Rates, Drives Away Insurers, ::Ten Ideas For the US Congress: Seize the Initiative, ::Tell Congress to Support Clean Energy, and ::Urge USA Congress to Support Cool Cars and Clean Energy

Tags: Congress

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