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Taxpayers Shouldn’t Pay $223,000 for First Lady Jill Biden’s Back-to-Back Flights

Last week, President Biden and the First Lady traveled on Air Force One to France for the 80th memorial anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. They departed late on June 4 and arrived in Paris the next day. While the President was not scheduled to return to the U.S. until June 9, Jill Biden made a return trip on Thursday, June 6, to attend Hunter Biden's trial in Delaware. She then flew back to France the next day for the remainder of the trip.

For security reasons, First Ladies travel on military aircraft and generally use a Boeing C-32, which is a military version of a 757. The Air Force lists the reimbursable rate for use of this aircraft at $13,816 per hour. It is possible that the actual cost for using this aircraft could be a bit higher because the Air Force has not reported the total cost per flight hour for the C-32. Without that information it is unclear what percentage of the total cost would be covered by the reimbursable rate that the Air Force charges other federal agencies for use of the aircraft.

Per, a flight from Paris, France to Wilmington, DE takes about 8 hours. That would put the cost of each leg of the trip at $111,500.

When traveling on official business, the government bears the cost. When in use for campaign events, some of the costs are reimbursed. These would generally be made by political or campaign committees and must be reported in their filings to the Federal Election Commission.

The Daily Mail reported that the Democratic National Committee will provide the reimbursement pay for the First Lady’s trip to tend to a family legal matter. It is unclear how much will be reimbursed but the amount will eventually be included in the Committee's filings with the Federal Election Committee. According to the Congressional Research Service, "When a trip is for an official function, the government pays all costs, including per diem (food and lodging), car rentals, and other incidental expenses. When a trip is for political or unofficial purposes, those involved must pay for their own food and lodging and other related expenses, and they must also reimburse the government with the equivalent of the airfare that they would have paid had they used a commercial airline."

The Bidens returned to Philadelphia on June 9 aboard Air Force One, a Boeing VC-25. The Air Force reports that the reimbursement rate for VC-25A is $192,079 per flying hour, which amounts to over $1.5 million for an eight hour flight. 

There are a lot of expenses associated whenever the President or the First Lady travels. More transparency and accountability are needed regarding these costs so that taxpayers aren’t taken for a ride.