Mr. PETRI. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, for the third consecutive Congress, we are working to pass a long-term reauthorization of the FAA. This year both the House and Senate passed their own reauthorizations; but, unfortunately, negotiations with the Senate have slowed, and it is necessary for us to pass another extension to enable the FAA to continue to operate.
This bill is a short-term extension of FAA funding and programs through September 16 at current levels. This extension also includes important reforms to the Essential Air Service program. These reforms could result in as much as $20 million in savings for the American taxpayer.
The first reform provision was adopted unanimously by the Senate and is included in its reauthorization bill. That provides that only airports that are 90 miles or more away from a large- or medium-hub airport would be eligible to participate in the Essential Air Service--90 miles away. People can obviously and in most instances would prefer to drive 90 miles rather than take a connecting flight. It seems like a sensible thing. We hadn't thought about it when we passed our original [Page:
legislation; the Senate did. We are including their reform. So we are, in effect, acceding to the Senate. In the case of one airport under the current program which is within 90 miles, we are paying a per passenger subsidy of $851, and the nearest hub is 82 miles away. That is a $10 per mile subsidy.
So the second provision dealing with Essential Air Service caps the subsidies for each passenger, in addition to the fares they pay, at $1,000. During this economically difficult time, it is not possible to justify using taxpayer dollars to pay a subsidy of $1,000 per passenger at an EAS airport, and subsidies can frequently exceed that amount. If there are difficulties with that, there is other language that would allow the executive branch to waive this provision.
The EAS provisions included in the extension are limited and sensible reforms that target the most indefensible of the subsidies. If we can't do this, what can we do, especially after 23 or 24 extensions that have been holding the whole program and the efficiency and improvements in the air infrastructure of our country hostage.
The House-passed bill actually phases out the Essential Air Services program for all but Alaska and Hawaii. We are not insisting on that at all. We are modifying that and going along with largely what the Senate itself has been suggesting in this regard. So these provisions are a compromise, and EAS will continue to be discussed as we work to finalize the bill.
As Congress tries to find a way forward to address deficit and long-term debt issues, if we can't put an end to these extravagant subsidies, then we will never be able to rein in spending where really hard decisions are necessary.
Although I continue to hold out hope that we will reach a compromise with the Senate in the near future, it is necessary to pass this extension to provide the FAA with continued funding authority and provide needed EAS reform. Ultimately, we need to get back to the negotiating table to work out a long-term FAA bill. Short-term extensions are not the way to run such an important agency.
I urge my colleagues to support the bill.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS,
Washington, DC, July 18, 2011.
Hon. JOHN MICA,
Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC.
DEAR CHAIRMAN MICA: I am writing concerning H.R. 2553, the ``Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, Part IV'' which is expected to be scheduled for floor consideration this week.
As you know, the Committee on Ways and Means has jurisdiction over the Internal Revenue Code. Sections 2 and 3 of this bill amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 by extending the current Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) expenditure authority and the associated Federal excise taxes to September 16, 2011. In order to expedite H.R. 2553 for Floor consideration, the Committee will forgo action on the bill. This is being done with the understanding that it does not in any way prejudice the Committee
with respect to the appointment of conferees or its jurisdictional prerogatives on this or similar legislation.
I would appreciate your response to this letter, confirming this understanding with respect to H.R. 2553, and would ask that a copy of our exchange of letters on this matter be included in the Congressional Record during Floor consideration.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE,
Washington, DC, July 18, 2011.
Hon. DAVE CAMP,
Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for your letter regarding H.R. 2553, the ``Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, Part IV.'' The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure recognizes the Committee on Ways and Means has a jurisdictional interest in H.R. 2553, and I appreciate your effort to facilitate consideration of this bill.
I concur with you that forgoing action on H.R. 2553 does not in any way prejudice the Committee on Ways and Means with respect to its jurisdictional prerogatives on this bill or similar legislation in the future, and I would support your effort to seek appointment of an appropriate number of conferees to any House-Senate conference involving this legislation.
I will include our letters on H.R. 2553 in the Congressional Record during House Floor consideration of the bill. Again, I appreciate your cooperation regarding this legislation and I look forward to working with the Committee on Ways and Means as the bill moves through the legislative process.
John L. Mica,
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. COSTELLO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise today in opposition to H.R. 2553, the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011. This is the 21st extension of the FAA authority to fund airport improvement projects at current levels, through September 16, 2011. Regrettably, unlike all of the prior 20 extensions of the FAA authority, this bill includes a policy rider eliminating Essential Air Service eligibility for 13 airports in small and rural communities.
The issue today is not whether we support the Essential Air Service program or not. We should not be legislating on this extension. We should have a clean extension so we can move it over to the Senate and make certain that the FAA is funded through September 16.
There have been no hearings on proposals to reduce EAS this Congress and no hearings on this bill either. Members with affected communities should be allowed to make their case to the House and offer amendments to the bill that would preserve service to their communities.
Instead, this extension is inviting opposition and creating major problems because the Senate has indicated they will not accept this extension. Policy riders should be left out of the extension and taken up by the House and Senate conferees, if, in fact, we ever have conferees appointed here in the House.
Earlier this year, the House and Senate both approved comprehensive FAA reauthorization bills. In February, the Senate passed the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 87-8. Passage of the Senate bill was widely applauded by both labor and industry stakeholders, and it was estimated the bill would create at least 10,000 jobs.
In contrast, in April of this year, the House passed an extremely controversial H.R. 658 by a vote of 223-196, the narrowest vote margin for House passage of an FAA reauthorization bill in nearly three decades. The bill has been harshly criticized by labor and industry stakeholders because it would undermine aviation safety, slash FAA funding, and destroy good-paying airport construction jobs.
Since Chairman Mica introduced the FAA reauthorization bill, we have been warned and we have warned, actually, that it contains a number of controversial poison pill provisions that seriously jeopardize the enactment of a long-term reauthorization act this year.
The failure to enact a long-term FAA reauthorization act is costing taxpayers millions of dollars and the Nation tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. Short-term stopgap funding authorizations have stymied airport construction, job creation, and the FAA's overall ability to efficiently administer its programs. Further, multiple FAA extension acts have created uncertainty among local airport officials regarding the total amount of Federal funding available this year for airport construction.
As a result, State and local airport officials are advancing fewer projects, less new construction is moving forward, and fewer jobs are being created.
Last week the Airports Council International of North America sent a letter stating that if Congress did not extend the airport grant program through September 30, ``safety and security projects will go unfunded and the much needed jobs associated with these projects will not materialize.'' So I am puzzled why the majority would disregard this warning. It is time that we move forward and that we get a clean extension so we in fact can move to conference and get a bill that is agreed upon that
we can bring to the floor that can be signed by the President.
For the majority of the House who claims to care about creating jobs, reducing bureaucracy, and listening to the business community, this extension bill goes out of its way to create unnecessary red tape and problems.
The FAA needs the certainty, stability, and direction that a long-term [Page: H5259]
reauthorization act provides. Further, the American people and the American public deserve a long-term FAA reauthorization act that will create jobs, improve safety, and modernize our infrastructure. We need to stop playing partisan games, quit posturing, and pass a clean extension through September 16, appoint conferees, and in fact reach agreement on a long-term FAA reauthorization
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MICA. Mr. Speaker, I thank our chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, Mr. Petri, for his leadership. Also Mr. Costello, who formerly chaired the committee and now is the ranking member. I want to thank him for his dedication to our Nation's aviation system, safety. And also Mr. Rahall. You couldn't ask for better partners. Mr. Rahall is the Democrat leader of the committee, and we have a great working relationship. We have had a great working relationship
to try to move forward legislation like a long-term reauthorization of FAA and other major transportation legislation that has been mired in delay. Quite frankly, my colleagues, I find myself very frustrated being here.
Now, this is the 21st extension. I complimented and don't let me not compliment the staff on both sides. We have great professionals that deal with this.
The Congress is fortunate and the Nation is blessed to have the kind of leadership we have with staff working on these important issues to move what accounts for about 8 to 9 percent of our GDP. That's the aviation industry forward, setting the policy, the programs, the funding formula, all those things these folks are responsible for. And they're good stewards of that responsibility. So I thank them in advance. I also want to thank Senator Rockefeller, Mr. Speaker, and others who have
worked with us trying to bring this to a conclusion. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the ranking Republican on the Senate side, worked in good faith to try to get this, again, inexcusable delay in passing the long-term reauthorization.
That being said, again, I find myself so frustrated. This is the 21st delay. We have a former chairman of the subcommittee, Mr. Costello. Mr. Petri now chairs it. He's been active on this. I was chairman for 6 years of the subcommittee. We were all wanting to do the same thing--and that's move forward with reauthorization.
The irony of this is I chaired the Subcommittee on Aviation in 2003, when we were wrote the last reauthorization. And we did that in some 6 months. And there were controversial provisions. That 4-year bill expired in 2007. We have not passed a reauthorization, even when the other side had humongous numbers in this Chamber and control of the other body. At one point, I think 60 votes to get something done. Nothing was done. Seventeen extensions under their watch. And, quite frankly, I'm embarrassed
that this is the fourth extension. But I'm trying to do in 6 or 7 months what couldn't be done in almost 5 years. And we're going to get it done. We're going to get it done one way or the other.
Now, we have also done three what they call clean extensions to move this process forward. And we did need some time. You have to be reasonable because this is a new Congress. The other body, the Senate, passed their bill in February. We passed the first day in April our legislation. And here we find ourselves on the fourth, again, extension, which is regrettable.
All this, I say, my colleagues, could be resolved I think in a matter of an hour. There's been great work and discussions, informal discussions, in what we call preconference, where some of the principles get together and discuss the terms. All these issues are not new. Mr. Costello and I, Mr. Oberstar and I, we had discussed this. In fact, I think the other body took up the pending legislation from last time. My goodness, it was pending for 48 months. So there's no new issues here.
Again, we find ourselves stalled in the process.
That being said, I call on the Members to pass this extension. This is a clean extension, except for one change; and it has two parts. The first part deals with Essential Air Service. That's the program that underwrites, again, routes for air service from local communities. This is a program that started at about $50 million a decade ago and now is approaching $200 million. We had a vote here in the House, and we decided to sunset that program, I guess with the exception of two of our exceptional
States, Hawaii and Alaska, who have some unique geographic limitations on service. But the other body passed a provision, the Senate, passed a provision that would eliminate service based on distance, I think it's 90 miles, and it affected some 10 communities. Mr. Speaker, I'll insert in the Record the 10 communities affected.
So this is language that the other body passed and we are including. Now, I have made one exception, and it affects three airports, three States: Nevada, Montana, and New Mexico. A provision I put in is that no State or no airport operation that has service where the subsidy exceeds a thousand dollars a ticket can receive that subsidy. I don't think that's unreasonable, when we've got from now until the beginning of August to get our Nation's finances together. I want to see folks come down here
to vote to continue to see subsidies for more than a thousand. One of these subsidies, and I won't state the State but you can figure it out, is $3,719 per passenger. That's obscene when our country is on the verge of debt crises and disaster.
If I have to take the entire reauthorization and we continue--now this extends through the 16th of September. I'm putting everybody on notice that each time we will pass reauthorization, if we have to do it extension by extension. So we're starting with this small part of what the other body has passed, and I'm adding what I think is a reasonable provision. A thousand-dollar subsidy in itself is almost obscene, if you ask the average Member of Congress. In fact, when I went to the Rules Committee,
one of the members on the other side of the aisle was stunned that we were paying those kinds of fees.
Now, don't come here and tell me that we don't legislate on extensions. In fact, the other body put an entire bill, a regional safety legislation, on one of the past 17 extensions. So we've done this before. We need to work together on this. I would implore Members on both sides of the aisle to support this because this is in the people's interest. This has to move forward. I don't know of any other mechanism. I certainly am not going to allow this fiasco to continue and certainly I don't want
the FAA to close down at midnight on Friday night. And that won't happen. Essential services will continue. Air traffic controllers will be at their job. There may be some people furloughed. But it is not my fault. It will be the responsibility of the other body, who does not take this up and pass it. They will be furloughing people and putting people out of jobs.
If you want to see people work, then let's pass the FAA bill. It has the Next Generation air traffic control provisions. It has safety provisions in there that are long overdue.
So, again, I'm a bit frustrated. I want the best for the Nation. I want the best for our air traffic control system, our aviation system, and thousands of people who depend--not just working in the Federal Government, but in this important industry--to move forward. Again, I'm so disappointed. But we're going to find one way. I may not be the most powerful Member, I may not be the most intelligent Member, I may not be the highest ranking Member. But I'll tell you what: I am a persistent Member.
And we will pass reauthorization one way or another. We're going to get it done. So I appreciate everyone's indulgence in working with me on this project.
SUBSIDIZED EAS COMMUNITIES AND DISTANCES TO NEAREST HUB--BASED ON FY 2009 HUB DATA [Excludes communities located in Alaska] EAS Community
Nearest large/medium hub
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Int'l, GA (L)
Pittsburgh Int'l, PA (M)
Buffalo Niagara Int'l (M)
Buffalo Niagara Int'l (M)
Hagerstown, MD/Martinsburg, WV
Washington Dulles Int'l, VA (L)
Memphis Int'l, TN (M)
Pittsburgh Int'l, PA (M)
Oil City/Franklin, PA
Pittsburgh Int'l, PA (M)
Philadelphia Int'l, PA (L)
Memphis Int'l, TN (M)
Mr. RAHALL. I commend our ranking member, Mr. Costello, Chairman Mica, Subcommittee Chairman Petri, my senior Senator, Jay Rockefeller, in the other body and his ranking member, Kay Bailey Hutchison, for the tremendous efforts they have put in this legislation and so much other legislation important for our infrastructure in this country. I recognize that those on the majority, their heart is in the right place. Perhaps those whose pay grade is above
them have different opinions and different agendas on this legislation. And perhaps that's the reason why we need to appoint conferees, as the other body has done, and move forward and let the normal process work its will in this legislation.
But instead, we're here to consider the 21st short-term extension of FAA programs and authority and the fourth short-term extension this Congress, as our chairman has just stated. Twenty-one extensions. It's now old enough to drink. Instead of celebrating, however, this should give all cause for concern. This past Saturday marked the 100th day since the Senate appointed conferees on long-term reauthorization. The sun has risen and set over the Capitol more than 200 times since then. House and
Senate negotiators have boiled down the remaining issues to just a few.
But the House Republican leadership still has not appointed conferees to move this process forward, despite the fact that, as Chairman Mica has acknowledged to the press late last week and even in his comments here today, the remaining differences are so few they could be resolved by conferees in 20 minutes. So I ask: What is the Republican leadership waiting for?
We find ourselves now faced with the need for a 21st extension. Unlike the three other extensions this Chamber has passed this year, this extension contains a policy rider that would cut 13 small and rural communities from the Essential Air Service program.
There have been no hearings on proposals, as Ranking Member Costello has stated, to reduce EAS and no hearings on this proposal in particular. That said, I would note for the record that the provision of this extension dealing with EAS is an improvement over the proposal in the House-passed reauthorization bill that would have cut the EAS program altogether for the lower 48 States.
There's no question that a sunset of the program would not pass the Senate and be enacted, and at least my Republican colleagues have stepped back from the brink on that particular proposal. However, I am disappointed that instead of appointing conferees to address the future of the EAS program and other outstanding issues in this long-term reauthorization, my Republican colleagues have instead chosen to force a major policy provision into an otherwise clean FAA extension bill at the last minute.
Holding hostage the negotiations is not the way to move the reauthorization process forward. In fact, it is almost guaranteed to set us back in our efforts to work with the other body and reach agreement on a long-term reauthorization.
I object to the tactics used by my Republican friends and colleagues, and I implore them to act in good faith, appoint conferees, and work toward enactment of a long-term reauthorization bill that will put Americans to work and improve the safety of our skies.
Mr. MICA. Thank you so much for yielding again.
The question has been brought up to try to shift the responsibility for, again, the possibility of the other body's not acting here to the question of the Republicans not appointing conferees.
I might point out just for the record that in the 110th Congress--this is for an entire 2 years--the Senate never passed an FAA reauthorization bill, so we never even got to preconference. We never got to the issue. So they never appointed conferees. There was a bill passed. And, again, huge majorities on both sides.
In the 111th Congress, the House and Senate passed FAA reauthorizations and preconferenced for 5 months without naming conferees. They never named any conferees.
This process of preconferencing is part of the bipartisan nature of our committee and our work and bicameral discussions. As I said, they've been excellent. The staff has been working well. These aren't new issues. The other side controlled the process for some 4 years. The bills have been out there for some time.
I have the commitment from the leadership, when we are ready to go and having resolved most of the issues, and, again, there are only a couple and everyone knows what they are, I think that they can fall in place. But we need the leadership of the other body, in fact, the leader of the other body, to step forward and act in a responsible manner in dealing with me or the leadership of the House or someone in responding to a major impediment that we have to move this process forward. Then our leadership
has said they will appoint conferees. We can sit down, resolve those issues in a public forum, and pass this. We could do that tomorrow.
So, again, it's not the question of appointing conferees. And if I have to take more strident measures to get this job done, we're going to get the job done one way or the other, as I said.
Now, I had a Republican ask me to modify the language that the Senate passed before the Rules Committee. There's a tape. You can all see it; it's part of the Record. And I said, No, I don't want to do that. I want to take what the Senate passed. The only difference here in the Essential Air Service is that I provided language that says that if you get more than a $1,000 subsidy that affects three airports, that will not be allowed. That's the only thing standing between us and shutting
down part of our Federal Aviation Administration.
Mr. COSTELLO. I yield myself 10 seconds just to make a point to the chairman.
The 5-month period that he referred to, one, the Republicans in the Senate, as he knows, blocked our ability to appoint conferees. In particular, the Senators from Tennessee put a hold on it until the Colgan families made their point to let the hold move forward.
With that, Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the former chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, the distinguished gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio).
Mr. DeFAZIO. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
This used to be a legislative body. I'm not quite sure what it is now.
The way, traditionally, the House and the Senate resolve differences is the House and the Senate each pass a bill--most people learn this in their high school civics class. Then each side appoints conferees and they get together and hash through the differences. I've actually served on some of those conference committees. I've actually voted across the aisle on some provisions of bills in those conference committees.
But not now. What they're saying here is, after they have worked out all the differences with the Senate and only in the way that their bill passed the House--that is, my way or the highway, or, my way or your plane's grounded, however you want to look at it--then they will appoint conferees to a meaningless conference on something that's already agreed to and then we'll come back and pass their bill.
It doesn't work that way. It won't work that way. And this is just not a simple problem, because if the FAA has to close down all of its capital improvement programs--Friday night, very expensive, 4,000 people laid off--thousands of projects across the country that would put construction workers to work and suppliers to work won't happen. So this isn't a no-cost playing games kind of thing that they're doing here.
And what's it all about? The bottom line is it's about whether or not labor should have the right to organize. That is what hung up the bill in the Senate before because they wanted to have a level playing field. We wanted to have a level playing field between providers of railroad and airline services and allow people to actually organize, to be [Page: H5261]
represented. And, of course, Federal Express hated that, and their two Senators held up the last conference
in the last Congress, plain and simple.
Now they're on the same wavelength here. The Republicans here want to overrule the National Labor Relations Board and impose a rule for organizing that says you have to have a majority of people voting and a majority of the majority voting; i.e., if you apply the same rule that they want to the United States House of Representatives, not one Member of this House would have won their election. Not even some people who are in totally partisan districts, Democrat or Republican. No one would have
won because no one got a majority of the majority of the votes. That's the rule they want to apply to labor.
So if you want to organize a union, there's 100 people. First off, you've got to get 51 positive votes. Anybody who doesn't vote counts as a negative vote. So if we apply those same things, we would never have Federal elections in this country. You would never be able to elect anybody to anything. And they say, oh, that'll be fair for labor.
That's what's hanging up this bill: their anti-labor fervor, their hatred of working people and their right to organize. It's absolutely obscene that they are going to do that and cost us more jobs by not having a capital improvement program.
Mr. PETRI. I would just point out to my colleagues that the provision that was changed by the National Labor Relations Board to which my colleague referred has been the law of this land for a generation. So it's not anti-labor fervor at all; it's more regular order.
Madam Speaker, how much time does each side have remaining?
Mr. MICA. Thank you, my colleagues.
You just heard the comments. Again, I couldn't have a better friend or compatriot on many issues and on many improvements that we've made to transportation on the committee together: Mr. DeFazio, the gentleman from Oregon. He said this used to be a legislative body. Yes, it was a legislative body before the other side took over 4 years ago and closed down quite a bit of the process.
Now, has this been an open process on the FAA reauthorization? I submit to you that it has been from the committee.
Go back and check the committee records. We held more votes on this FAA reauthorization in committee than we held probably for the last 6 years--I know certainly for the last 4 years--on that one piece of legislation. On the floor, we had an open process. I think there were some 30 amendments, and 23, I believe, were made in order. So, unless they were duplicative or the Rules Committee took them out, it was an open process as opposed to a closed process with closed rules that, again, we had
on major pieces of legislation for some time. So this has been an open process.
The House is going to act. The House is going to pass this. If we have to pass additional extensions, as I said, with the rest of the reauthorization piece by piece, then we are going to pass a reauthorization to set the policy, the programs, the projects, and the priorities for our aviation industry and for FAA. The only projects that will be stopped are projects for which, if the other body doesn't act on this extension, they will be responsible for.
The only difference in the extension--and we gave them three clean extensions, and this is a clean extension with their provision that passed with their language unanimously in the other body--is that I added three States--actually, three airports--that subsidized in excess of $1,000 per ticket, per passenger.
Again, when the Nation is going down the tubes almost literally because of debt, we can't make one little, tiny change and move this process forward? keep people working? put safety provisions that are in this reauthorization that we don't have now and move forward with it? There is something wrong.
Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Let me thank the leadership on the committee and then simply appeal to my chairman, Mr. Mica, to come and reason together, because this has been a committee that has had a history of reasoning together. Without my standing here and going through it, you are very aware of what the most objectionable part of this extension is.
If we are serious about passing an extension, let's pass the extension and deal with the other issues at another time. Yes, it has been since 2007, and it has been because of the battling back and forth. You're either pro-labor or anti-labor, but we are ruining the lives of workers. We are subjecting safety to the whims, and we are messing up projects and wasting money by allowing this bickering to continue.
I would simply appeal to our chairman to please come to the table, and let's pass a clean extension bill.
Mr. PETRI. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, I just thought, as long as we were spending some time talking about the modest cleaning up of the series of, kind of, earmarks that have accumulated over the years in the Essential Air Service program, which was referred to by the chairman of the committee as a program that started out as a true essential air service to help provide access to the outside world to very isolated communities, it has gradually been kind of earmarked, going from $50 million to some $200 million in cost.
They're not isolated, but they are subsidized. God knows why.
Let me just mention a few of the areas that would be affected by these modest changes: that it has to be more than 90 miles from another airport and, secondly, that we try to cap the subsidy, unless it's varied somewhat by the Secretary, at $1,000 per seat, per flight.
One that would be affected that is currently being subsidized is Jonesboro, Arkansas. It's 82 miles from Memphis. You can't drive 82 miles, and you want the Federal Government to provide service?
Athens, Georgia, is 72 miles from Atlanta, and it's getting subsidized.
We're worrying about billions of dollars of subsidies. If we can't even do this, where do we start? They say a big journey starts with a single step, and we're not willing to take even in this small area the most modest of steps.
Harristown, Maryland, which is north of here, is 78 miles from the Dulles Airport. It's getting a subsidy of over $800 per flight, and it's right near Baltimore as well.
There is Glendive, Montana, which is 60 miles from another essential airport in Montana. It's just 60 miles. You could drive over to Sidney--but no, they're asking for a $1,357 subsidy, per passenger, flying from Glendive under this program.
Alamogordo, New Mexico, is 89 miles from a hub airport in El Paso, but instead of driving 89 miles, there continues to be a $1,500 subsidy. You can rent a car. This is a profligate, hard-to-defend use of the taxpayers' money, yet people are talking about closing the government down or the FAA down unless they can spend $1,500 to subsidize a flight when you can drive 89 miles to another airport.
This is what we're talking about, and this is why my constituents and many others are wondering when we're going to get serious out here about taking the modest steps to get our financial affairs and our stewardship of the Federal taxpayers' money under better control.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. NORTON. I thank the gentleman from Illinois for yielding.
Madam Speaker, the debt limit isn't the only deadline that is upon us. Here we are, facing Friday--D-day for the Nation's aviation system. This is the third Congress where our committee has passed this bill. Most of the sections of the bill do not have major disagreement. But, now, we are going for a bare 2-month extension.
On the policy rider, all I've got to say is, why make it more difficult when [Page: H5262]
you know that when it goes to the other body, it's either going to be stripped out or we're going to be facing another terrible deadline.
I appreciate that negotiations have been going on all along with staff. I do believe, though, that the failure of the majority to appoint conferees is a problem with this bill because, once members are appointed, it seems to me that sends another signal and gets another set of people in it to move the bill. So the conferees do matter and should have been appointed.
These are difficult issues, and they shouldn't be left to linger: Next Generation Air Transportation.
If we don't modernize our air transportation, we're going to be left behind even developing countries. Runway safety. We've had collisions on runways at airports right here where there are major airports. Aircraft noise, and we always have this issue, of whether or not the perimeter rule is going to be extended or violated again. Well, you know, I oppose increases of the perimeter rule, but I oppose even more not sitting down to figure it out with conferees at the table.
We've got the air ambulance operation issues, the oversight of foreign carriers and, of course, the notorious national mediation board issue, where what constitutes a majority could only be an issue in this Congress. Is it the majority of votes cast, or is the majority of those in the class or in the whole group? If it's a majority of votes cast, then, of course, it's what all of us in the Congress use every 2 years to get elected.
There are matters in this bill that the Congress has to do anyway that would be especially useful to do now as we recover from the Great Recession.
We should pass this bill providing jobs, which is something we have to do anyway, now, when it would count, would matter very much to the entire country. Let's reauthorize the entire bill and quit short-term extensions.
Mr. MICA. Madam Speaker, the chair of the Aviation Subcommittee went through the list of the airports that are within 90 miles that would be affected by the provisions of this extension.
Now, all of those 10 airports were included in an amendment and a provision that's in the Senate bill and passed unanimously. The only difference, and he spoke briefly to one of them, again is the provision that I put in putting a restriction on paying more than a thousand dollars per ticket, per passenger subsidy. Those subsidies start in Montana at one airport with $1,357.
Another airport, one airport in New Mexico, has a subsidization per ticket per passenger of $1,563.
Now the granddaddy, the big enchilada in this whole thing is one airport in Nevada. Every ticket is subsidized $3,719.
Now you're telling me that they are going to close down parts of the FAA to preserve this subsidy when this Nation is on the verge of a financial debt crisis unheard of in the history of our Nation.
So, again, I've tried to deal on a bipartisan, bicameral basis working with folks to get this done. Twenty-one extensions over 4 years. I'm not adding an entire bill. I'm adding that one provision. The other side added in one of their extensions an entire bill.
The other language Mr. Petri spoke to was 10 airports that are within the distance of 90 miles that the Senate passed unanimously. So it's not like I am taking some language.
A Republican tried to change that in the Rules Committee, and I recommended against it. And we did not change it because, again, I want to have language that the Senate passed.
So that's what we boil down to on the eve of a crisis with FAA, on the eve of a crisis with our Nation's finances, we're going to come and vote here. And I want people to go back and say, ``I voted for a $3,700 subsidy for air service for one passenger for one ticket.'' I want to see that list of names.
Mr. ENGEL. I rise today in continued opposition to the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, H.R. 2553. I will continue to oppose the FAA reauthorization until the FAA rethinks their ill-advised redesign for the airspace around New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.
I have opposed this airspace redesign from day one, along with some of my Republican colleagues in New Jersey as well, and have thwarted its implementation every step of the way.
Time and time again, the FAA has pursued the airspace redesign while ignoring the concerns of my constituents in Rockland County, New York. The FAA created their proposal with zero input from the very people whose lives would be most harmed by the proposal. In fact, even when we brought this up to the FAA, they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into holding a public forum in Rockland County. This plan, which will only save minutes on flight time, will disrupt the lives of thousands of residents
in my district in Rockland County in New York and in northern New Jersey who live under the new flight plans.
As my constituents have noted to me, the noise and air pollution in the area will increase. It is unknown how this increase in air pollution will affect the disproportionate rate of childhood asthma in my district. The modernization of our aviation system is necessary to bring it into the 21st century, to keep pace with the increased number of flights, and to also maintain our technological advancements by implementing new equipment to keep our system the safest in the world.
However, there are several alternatives to this plan, and I encourage my colleagues to join me in opposition to this reauthorization. Not only are we going to have planes going into Newark Airport fly directly over my constituents, but now there are other paths of planes coming in from JFK airport as well.
This is government at its worst running roughshod over the people that it's supposed to serve, not taking any kind of input. In fact, they come up with a redesign plan. And then when it's challenged, the person who decides the challenge was the very author of the redesign plan to begin with. Sounds like a kangaroo court to me.
So I am going to continue to oppose these things. I think at a time when we're all talking about government spending less and being more sensitive, this is a good place to start. And I will continue to oppose the FAA reauthorization until the FAA halts and revises their deeply flawed airspace redesign plan for New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.
Mr. COSTELLO. I yield myself the balance of my time.
Madam Speaker, we heard from Chairman Mica, who we have worked with very closely. He has done, I think, his very best up to this point to try and get an FAA reauthorization bill both out of the House and to the point where we can get it to a conference committee.
So he said he is very frustrated with the process. We are very frustrated with the process. And today the extension that the majority is offering even frustrates us more because we know that this is an extension, not a clean extension, but it has a rider on it involving Essential Air Services.
The debate today and the discussion about this extension is not about Essential Air Service. Some members may support Essential Air Service, others may not support it. There's been a lot said on the floor today about subsidizing a $3,000 subsidy per ticket. Just for the record, we are not debating that. That is to be taken up by conferees if we ever get to conference. Members can, in fact, have their opportunity to make changes in the EAS program at that time. It should not be a part of this
But for the record let me say that in reference to an airport that was mentioned in Montana, it is actually 607 miles from Denver, to the Denver airport. So if you live in that community, it's not just a short drive to get in a rental car and drive to the Denver Airport. Also, the Nevada airport that was [Page: H5263]
referenced from Salt Lake City, you are talking 234 miles. And the list goes on and on.
So that's an issue that we can debate at the appropriate time. Some changes may need to be made to the Essential Air Service program. But I think also we need to keep in mind, we're not just talking about passengers getting from point A to point B when there's hundreds and hundreds of miles to get to the nearest large hub airport to catch a flight, but we're also talking about moving medical supplies, donor organs, and a number of other things. So it's not just passengers.
And let me also say, my friend Mr. Mica mentioned as well that we've had an open process here. Well, in fact, we have not. The process has not been open on this extension. In fact, the majority dropped the bill on Friday without consulting the minority. They did not consult with us about what may be in the extension. In addition to that, they went to Rules Committee and asked for a closed rule so that no Member who might be affected by this legislation or might have an Essential Air
Service airport in their district that may want to go to the Rules Committee and, in fact, get an open rule or come to the floor to debate the merits of keeping their airport on the EAS program, they did not have that opportunity because the majority asked for a closed rule.
Had the majority come to us in the minority and said, We want a clean extension; we want to move it forward, we wouldn't be here today. We, in fact, would probably have voice voted this extension. It would have gone to the Senate. It would have been voice voted there. And, in fact, we would have been a step closer to making certain that the FAA is able to operate after the deadline on Saturday.
Finally, let me say that we are frustrated because I've heard Chairman Mica say many times and, as the ranking member, Mr. Rahall, has said, We have worked closely together. We have done everything we can do in order to work together with Mr. Mica and Mr. Petri in order to get a bill. But I have read reports and I have just heard Mr. Mica say on the floor again today that, you know, we could wrap this conference up in 20 minutes. And he said today
we could wrap it up within an hour, that there is only one issue that is remaining.
Just for the record, let me say, if that's the case, we have not been consulted on that one issue. There are several issues. And just for the record, I would say major issues that have not been resolved on our side, on the House side between the majority and minority, let alone with the other body are: one, funding levels; two, Essential Air Service; three is repeal of the National Mediation Board rule; four is the DCA perimeter rule, often referred to as ``slots.''
Other outstanding issues are occupational safety and health protection for flight attendants, the 3-hour rule for tarmac delays, the lithium battery issue, and the aircraft activity disclosure to the public, the BARR program. And I have a list of other things to our knowledge that have not been resolved.
So when the chairman or others say that we could wrap this up in 20 minutes or in 1 hour, I don't believe that is the case. In fact, I know it's not the case. We have not been consulted or negotiated to the extent that we could reach an agreement among ourselves on the House side, let alone with our colleagues over in the other body. So let me just say that it's a disappointment to me.
We have worked closely together to move the FAA extension on a permanent basis. We are here on Wednesday. The FAA extension, in fact, will expire--the FAA will have to lay off employees this Saturday if, in fact, this extension is not approved by both bodies and sent to the President. And the Senate has already told us that they are not going to accept this extension with this rider, in fact, in the extension. They will approve the clean extension. And it's my understanding the other body is
going to pass a clean extension and send it over here sometime today or by the end of the week.
It would be my hope that the majority would, in fact, accept a clean extension so that the FAA can continue to serve the flying public and do all of the things that are essential to keeping the safest aviation system in the world as safe as possible so that we can begin to try and get a permanent bill and a long-term bill as well.
Finally, I would conclude by saying that we need to appoint conferees. The Senate has passed their bill in February of this year. We have passed our bill in April. And we are here now in the latter part of July, and Chairman Mica is saying that all of these issues have been resolved but one, and we do not even have conferees appointed. So I would just encourage the leadership--Ranking Member Rahall. And I have sent a letter to the Speaker and to the leadership and to the majority
saying, Look, let's appoint conferees. The Senate has appointed conferees.
The only opportunity we had to appoint conferees in the last Congress was, in fact, stifled and held up by the Senate and, frankly, by two Senators from the State of Tennessee over one issue.
Let's get the nonsense behind us. There are things in the Essential Air program that I would like to see changed. There are things in the bill that I would like to see us reach an agreement on. The only way to do that is to get an extension passed so the FAA can get past Saturday and operate until September 16. It will give us an opportunity to appoint conferees so that we can meet with the conferees who have already been appointed in the other body to reach a permanent agreement.
The American people deserve better than what they're getting today on the floor of this House, and the American people deserve to know that we, in fact, are doing everything that we can to move forward to keep the safest aviation system in the world exactly that--the leader in safety around the world.
So with that, I ask my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this extension in the hopes that we could pass a clean extension.
I yield back the balance of my time.