Boarding-Gate: TSA looking into the Vitter incident

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Sen. David Vitter's verbal dustup last week at Dulles Airport didn't result in charges filed against the sentaor, but the Transportation Security Authority may be looking into the incident, reports the National Journal's Hotline:

The Transportation Security Administration is examining Sen. David Vitter's much-reported decision to open the closed gateway door to his plane -- even though he was warned against it by an airline worker.

"We will be reviewing the alleged incident," Lauren Gaches, a TSA spokeswoman, told On Call this evening.

Roll Call first reported that Vitter, a Louisiana Republican known to the wider Washington world for showing up in the phone records of the DC madam, set off the security alarm Thursday when he tried to board a United Airlines flight from Washington Dulles to New Orleans. Vitter arrived at the gate 20 minutes before departure, and having been denied access to the plane, spiraled into what Roll Call called a "timeworn 'do-you-know-who-I-am' tirade" that "grew quite heated." He set off the security alarm when he opened the door, a spy told the paper....

A spokeswoman at the airport authority that runs Dulles Airport told the Times-Picayune that she doubts a police report was filed about the incident, and the airline did not comment on the report.

But Gaches told On Call that TSA can look into the Vitter event even if a police report was not filed.

Such incidents are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and officials would not speculate about general fines or punishments imposed for attempting to enter a jetway already closed to the public.

This is not the first case of bad airport manners by Congressfolk. Last year, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., faced charges for allegedly assaulting a worker in the United Airlines baggage claim area at (yep) Dulles when Filner's bags went astray:

"The individual allegedly attempted to enter an area authorized for airline employees only, pushed aside the employees outstretched arm and refused to leave the area when asked by an airline employee," according to airport police.

"When MWAA officers arrived a few minutes later, the man had left the office and was waiting in the area of a bag carousel. Officers interviewed him and witnesses and released him. Before the individual left the airport, officers advised him that the airline employee would be pursuing charges," the police statement reads.

The statement says the airport worker filed assault and battery charges, a class 1 misdemeanor.

And Filner had an even more martyred excuse than Vitter; while Vitter said he was in a hurry to get home for a town hall meeting with his constituents, Filner's office said the boss was on the way to Iraq to meet troops.

Then there was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and the case of the missing seafood dinner:

On a flight home to Houston, Jackson Lee became enraged when flight attendants failed to produce the seafood special she liked. "Don't you know who I am?" she reportedly thundered. "I'm Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Where is my seafood meal? I know it was ordered!"

That outburst prompted a phone call to Jackson Lee from Rebecca Cox, vice president of Continental's government affairs office in Washington and the wife of California Republican Chris Cox. The message? Straighten up and fly right, or don't fly with us.

Cox did not return calls seeking comment, but a member of Jackson Lee's staff who fielded the call remembered Cox saying, "[Jackson Lee] screamed at the top of her lungs at least a minute. She embarrassed the flight attendants and the passengers in first class. And she embarrassed herself." Cox then joked, "We have already given her the Delta Airlines schedule."

If the TSA finds reason to reprimand Vitter, perhaps the three can caucus together. Bad manners seem to be a truly bipartisan issue.

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