Rep Eric Burlison, a Missouri Republican, had confronted Mr Buttigieg during a House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on Wednesday.
“Since taking the role, you’ve traveled quite a bit – including private flights. How often do you take private flights?” he asked.
“I assume by ‘private flights’ you mean the use of government aircraft assigned by agency,” Mr Buttigieg replied.
Since serving as Transportation Secretary, he said that he has taken 638 flights: 607 of them flown on commercial aircraft, 10 were on military planes such as Air Force One, and 30 on FAA aircraft.
The FAA aircraft made up three per cent of his flights, Mr Buttigieg said.
Mr Burlison then went on to argue that there was a freedom of information (FOIA) request seeking to know the costs of the transportation secretary’s travel.
“Have you provided those costs?” he asked.
Mr Buttigieg replied that he would have to check back with his office but that he intends to comply with all FOIA requests.
“As I understand, it’s been months and you’ve not provided the financial numbers for that travel... You’ll commit to providing that information?” Mr Burlison pressed.
“We will always comply with FOIA,” the Transportation Secretary retorted, adding: “I appreciate the chance to discuss this because I can’t help but get the sense that people want to make it sound as if I don’t travel most of the time on commercial aircraft, which of course is untrue.”
“Yeah,” the Missouri Republican said. “I think the irony for most people in my district is that they’re being told that they’re gonna have to convert to electrical vehicles, to reduce their carbon footprint, and yet, not everyone gets to travel the way that you do.”
Mr Buttigieg shut Mr Burlison down.
“Just once again, the way I usually travel is in economy class aboard an airliner like everybody else,” he said.
“When we do it differently, it’s often because it will save taxpayer money.”
He added: “So glad you asked this, because I’m kind of excited to share some of the details.”
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