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Senator Rockefeller Kills Bipartisan Agreement for FAA Extension


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011, 4:20 PM PERMALINK


Senator Rockefeller and Senate Democrats said NO to the White House, said NO to the Transportation Secretary, FAA and Jobs. And insist on continued subsidies and favors for Union allies and a partial shut down of the FAA

Majority Leader Harry Reid On August 2, 2011: 

QUESTION:  Senator, if [Senate] Republicans don't accept a clean extension, temporary extension to the FAA act here on the floor by the end of the day, will you guys accept the House version and reopen the FAA?

REID  :  Yes.  I have said that we have 80,000 jobs at least on the line…The Essential Air Service is a program that I believe in, but I also believe that $3,500 per passenger is a little extreme.  That's what Ely, Nevada is.  and I think as we -- we learned with this big deal we've just done, sometimes you have to step back and find out what's best for the country and not be bound by some of your own personal issues.  And I'm willing to give that up.  I hope the other senators would do the same. 

Speaker Boehner Statement on August 3, 2011:

“All it will take to end this crisis is for the Senate to pass the House-approved FAA extension.  The only reason so many jobs are at stake is Senate Democratic Leaders chose to play politics rather than pass the House bill.  I respect the fact that Senators have certain objections, but they have had two weeks to respond to the House bill and done nothing, leaving tens of thousands of workers in limbo.  The House has done its job, and now it’s time for Senators to do theirs.”

Senator Rockefeller at Press Conference on August 3, 2011:

“I don’t know why we didn’t pass the bill…[responding to why Democrats didn’t pass FAA Reauthorization when they had the majority over the past 4 years]

“Of course I care about Morgantown” [which receives large subsidies in West Virginia]

The White House Pushed To Get the Senate To Accept The House Extension To Put 4,000 FAA Employees Back To Work.  “A last-minute Obama administration effort to get the Senate to accept a funding extension that would have returned 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees and about 70,000 others to work failed Tuesday as Congress headed home until September.”  (“Congress Heads Home Without Extending FAA Funding,” Ashley Halsey III, The Washington Post, August 2, 2011).

President Obama Demanded That Congress Break “That Impasse Now.”  “President Obama weighed in Tuesday morning, calling the impasse ‘another Washington-inflicted wound on America’ and demanding that Congress break ‘that impasse now’.” (“Congress Heads Home Without Extending FAA Funding,” Ashley Halsey III, The Washington Post, August 2, 2011).

Transportation Secretary Lahood Implored Senators To Accept The House Extension In Order To Avoid Losing $1.2 Billion In Ticket Tax Revenue.  “With House members already departed and senators packing their bags for the summer recess, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pressed hard in a final round of meetings and calls with Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and other key senators. LaHood implored them to accept a funding extension sent over by the House that contained provisions some senators found unpalatable, but he told them it was the only avenue left that would return people to work and avert the lost of $1.2 billion in ticket tax revenue.” (“Congress Heads Home Without Extending FAA Funding,” Ashley Halsey III, The Washington Post, August 2, 2011).

Secretary LaHood Told The Senate That Their Inaction Would Result in 70,000 Construction Workers Out Of Work But The Senate Ignored Him.  “We have heard many, many grandiose speeches by members of Congress about creating jobs and putting people to work,” LaHood said. “Well, this is not the way to put people to work, to lay off 70,000 construction workers in the middle of the construction season.”  (“Congress Heads Home Without Extending FAA Funding,” Ashley Halsey III, The Washington Post, August 2, 2011).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Initially Agreed That The Senate Should Accept The House Extension Before Going Out Of Session.  In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, August 2, Senator Reid said that “80,000 jobs at least” were “one the line” and people were laid off in Nevada and even though he wanted to “protect” his state on the EAS subsidies, “you have to be reasonable” and “sometimes you have to step back and find out what’s best for the country…”  (Harry Reid Press Statement on August 2, 2011).

Senator Reid Said He Hoped The Other Senators Would Agree With Him On The Extension.   “Sometimes you have to step back and find out what’s best for the country and not be bound by some of your own personal issues.  And I’m willing to give that up [Nevada’s EAS subsidy] I hope the other senators would do the same.” 

QUESTION:  Senator, if [Senate] Republicans don't accept a clean extension, temporary extension to the FAA act here on the floor by the end of the day, will you guys accept the House version and reopen the FAA?

REID  :  Yes.  I have said that we have 80,000 jobs at least on the line.  In Nevada, as an example, we have a new airport tower there where they started the construction about two weeks ago.  All those people have been laid off.  That's a huge project.  I don't know, but it's nearly a $100 million project. …

The Essential Air Service is a program that I believe in, but I also believe that $3,500 per passenger is a little extreme.  That's what Ely, Nevada is.  And I do my best to protect the state, but sometimes you have to be reasonable.

And I think as we -- we learned with this big deal we've just done, sometimes you have to step back and find out what's best for the country and not be bound by some of your own personal issues.  And I'm willing to give that up.  I hope the other senators would do the same.  (Harry Reid Press Statement on August 2, 2011)

But Senator Rockefeller, The Chairman Of The Committee That Oversees The FAA, Refused To Move The Extension Before The Senate Went Out Of Session.   Despite Secretary LaHood’s appeals, Senator Rockefeller refused to agree to the extension:  “Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the FAA, held out the possibility that if the Senate were able to pass a bill acceptable to Democrats, it could still be approved by the House using obscure parliamentary procedures, and sent to the White House.” (“FAA Shutdown To Continue As Congress Leaves,” Associated Press, August 2, 2011.

House Chairman Mica – Agreeing With The White House, Secretary LaHood And Harry Reid, Said The Only Way To End The Shutdown Was To Pass The House Extension And Senator Rockefeller Was Blocking It"The only one holding this up now is Mr. Rockefeller," Mica said. One of the 13 communities that would lose subsidies is Morgantown, W.Va.”  (“FAA Shutdown To Continue As Congress Leaves,” Associated Press, August 2, 2011.

Morgantown, West Virginia – In Rockefeller’s Home State – Is One of the 13 Communities That Would Lose Subsidies. "The only one holding this up now is Mr. Rockefeller," Mica said. One of the 13 communities that would lose subsidies is Morgantown, W.Va.”  (“FAA Shutdown To Continue As Congress Leaves,” Associated Press, August 2, 2011.

Just This Week, While Thousands Of Jobs Were On The Line, Senator Rockefeller Wrote An Op-Ed In USA Today Defending The Large Essential Air Service Subsidies.  “The EAS program has long been a lifeblood of economic development in rural America….at its core, EAS is a smart use of limited resources to support rural economies.  In my state of West Virginia, and many others, hub airports are hours away for most communities, and many businesses won't consider locating in places that lack air service. EAS, which is less than 2% of our aviation budget, makes a difference.” (Sen. Rockefeller: Rural America Needs Essential Air Service,” Senator Jay Rockefeller, USA Today, August 1, 2011)

Senator Reid Has Now Changed His Tune And Is Back To Blaming Republicans Despite His Agreement With The White House And Secretary LaHood On Tuesday, August 2.  “The Federal Aviation Administration has been in a partial shutdown mode since July 22. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the shutdown will continue, with some 4,000 federal workers remaining on furlough.   ‘It'll be closed until... maybe not September, maybe more than that,’  he tells All Things Considered co-host Michele Norris….’The House has tried to make this a battle over essential air service,’  he says. ‘It's not a battle over essential air service. It's a battle over Delta Airlines, who refuses to allow votes under the new rules that have been passed by the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board].’  The issue, Reid says, is Delta's ‘non-union’ stance. The bill to fund the FAA, as crafted by House Republicans, includes language that sets new rules for aviation workers' votes on labor representation.”  (“Reid Says FAA Shutdown Will Continue; Blames House, Delta Airlines,” Bill Chappell, NPR, August 2, 2011).

But Majority Leader Reid Now Ignores That The Labor Provision Isn’t Even In The FAA Extension As Chairman Mica Explains:  "To be clear, the House extension does not include any National Mediation Board labor provisions, which is another contentious issue between the House and Senate," he said. “Hardworking Americans are suffering because some powerful leaders in the Senate want to protect their own pork programs," Mica continued. "We are all fed up with the sham that is going on in the Senate. The Senate made a clear choice — political pork over American workers.” (“Mica:  Senate chose ‘pork’ over ending FAA partial shutdown,” Keith Lang, The Hill, August 2, 2011).

The FAA Has Already Had 20 Extensions Before But This Time Senate Democrats Said No.  Since the last FAA long-term funding bill expired in 2007, the agency has limped through 20 extensions of its funding while Congress bickered over how to craft a new long-term package. (“Congress Heads Home Without Extending FAA Funding,” Ashley Halsey III, The Washington Post, August 2, 2011).

Already The Government Has Lost More Than 12 Times What The Subsidies Cost.  “The government already has lost more than $200 million since airlines are unable to collect taxes on ticket sales because the FAA's operating authority has expired.  The Senate recessed on Tuesday until September, erasing any possibility for quickly resolving the issue. The House left Monday night.  (“FAA Shutdown To Continue As Congress Leaves,” Associated Press, August 2, 2011).

The Senate Leadership Is Willing To Cost The Government Over $1 Billion In Tax Revenue To Protect Their Subsidies. “As Eyder reported earlier today, The FAA shutdown has already cost the government more money than the disputed $16.5 million in cuts approved by the House. In fact, he wrote, the federal government stands to miss out on "more than $1 billion in revenue from uncollected airfare taxes."  (“Reid Says FAA Shutdown Will Continue; Blames House, Delta Airlines,” Bill Chappell, NPR, August 2, 2011).

Democrat Senator Mark Warner Says The Math On Not Passing The Extension Doesn’t Make Sense:  “Here’s a thing that has really got to make you scratch your head:  during this furlough, and with the FAA shutdown, the airlines who traditionally charge passengers a small tax to help fund the FAA so you can build the airports, maintain the airports, keep them safe, while the FAA is shut down, the airlines aren’t required to collect the tax.  So during this period, particularly if we go through this whole month and leave the FAA furloughed, the United States government….because of this political back and forth , would lose $1.2 billion in ticket taxes…$1.2 billion because of a dispute about a program to support rural airports that in total is $14 million.  Now, if people scratch their head on that kind of math, they’ve got a right to scratch their head.”  (Senator Mark Warner, Floor Statement on FAA Reauthorization on August 2, 2011)

Republican Senator Jon Kyl Calls On Senate Leadership To Put The American People First Instead Of Their Union Allies And Pass The Extension.  "Democrats have to decide if they are going to be the handmaidens of the labor unions in every policy," Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Senate GOP leader, told reporters. "Every now and then they should put the American people first instead of their constituency." (“FAA Shutdown To Continue As Congress Leaves,” Associated Press, August 2, 2011).

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