For some, the ongoing recession means tightening the belt on gratuitous spending. Congress clearly doesn’t share this sentiment. Curiously, they seem to believe now is the perfect time to upgrade their private jet fleet. At a measly $550 million taxpayer dollars, why not?

After scolding “The Big Three” auto executives for flying private jets on their way to beg Washington for $25 billion in taxpayer bailouts last November, Congress is now requesting funds for eight new Boeing 737’s and Gulfsteam V planes of their own. The Pentagon, which handles Congressional flights, had initially requested four aircraft and has publicly stated they don’t need the additional planes.

In reference to the aircraft request Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said,

We ask for what we need and only what we need… We’ve always frowned upon earmarks and additives that are above and beyond what we ask for.”

These aren’t your run-of-the-mill passenger planes either. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported:

The 737s, known as C-40s by the military, are designed to be an “office in the sky” for government leaders, according to Air Force documents describing the plane. The plane is configured with all first-class leather seats, worktables, two large galleys for cooking and a “distinguished visitor compartment with sleep accommodations.”

Fortunately, some in Congress have begun to take notice. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said yesterday,

The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach… It is evidence that some of the cynicism about Washington is well placed – that people get out of touch and they spend money like it’s Monopoly money.”

The federal deficit is expected to hit $1.8 trillion this year; it’s time for Congress to stop spending like it’s a game.