Rockefeller Says Delta Airlines and House Republican Anti-Worker Provisions Keeping FAA Closed

Calls for Immediate Passage of Clean FAA Extension Bill

July 28, 2011

Rockefeller talks FAA after Senate votes to pass the bill.WASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today took to the Senate floor again to reiterate the need to pass a clean FAA extension bill and move forward to negotiations on a comprehensive reauthorization of the agency.

Rockefeller’s prepared remarks follow:

For over a week, I have been seeking Unanimous Consent to pass a clean extension of the FAA.  This is not an unusual request.  It has been done 20 times over four years as we have sought to finalize an FAA Reauthorization package.   

Unfortunately, some on the Republican side of the aisle are objecting to this routine request.  Suddenly, they believe it is good policy to negotiate through the FAA extension process on provisions that would cut some communities out of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.

Some of this is new EAS language that, despite the insistence of some, was never considered by the House or Senate.  Without notice, it was dropped into the FAA extension while both chambers were in the process of negotiating on the EAS program as part of the full FAA reauthorization.

It is not the merits of the language that is at issue.  I have been willing to consider options to reform and strengthen the program for much of the past decade.  I want a good EAS program for the country and rural America.  I want communities that are bought in to making their air service a success.

I have always been ready to negotiate for workable and responsible EAS language, but this entire matter is not aimed at addressing the EAS program.  The House Republicans freely admit that this is simply an effort to leverage one issue to hijack the legislative process and gain the upper hand on negotiating an anti-labor provision.

If we passed this extension with EAS cuts and the House does not get its way over the next several weeks, there would be more cuts to EAS in the next bill.  When EAS is gone, it would be something else.

The truth lies in the fact that the House provision cut the EAS program by $16 million dollars.  At the same time, they have been willing to let $150 million drain from the trust fund in less than a week.  This clearly does not amount to good government or good budgeting and it has left the FAA in disarray to score a few measly political points.

I have spent the past few days highlighting the major consequences of our failure to move an FAA extension.  The FAA extensions are necessary to ensure funding is provided for the FAA from the users of the national air transportation system.  Now, there is no funding coming in and the agency has no authority to issue grants for important airport infrastructure and safety projects.

The airlines are not paying for their use of the National Airspace System.  The carriers also do not appear to care about the impact on the dedicated FAA workforce that serves them—nearly 4,000 have been furloughed.  And, most of the airlines are not even passing any savings on to the customers they serve.

This is rotten.  It is over a partisan issue that benefits one air carrier—Delta Airlines.  The language Delta is advocating would reverse a National Mediation Board (NMB) decision from the previous year that provided workers a democratic vote on union certification.  What are the real benefits to Delta from this provision?  How badly were they harmed by the decision?  After the change, several unionization votes were held among components of their workforce.  None of those units voted to organize.

I am beginning to question the motive behind this effort to push through a provision that does not have the votes to pass in the Senate, and barely passed in the House.  Yet, this is the reason we are holding up progress on a critical FAA Reauthorization package.

I will let my good friend from Iowa speak in greater detail on the NMB provision.  I know he has strong feelings on the EAS program and the process too.  

I just want to reiterate that the Senate appointed conferees the day the House sent over its FAA package for us to consider.  More than 100 days later the House still drags its feet and has not named conferees with which we can negotiate a final bill.  We can still get this process working again, but we need to get the FAA stable first.  We should pass a clean extension and then get to work finding a compromise on our remaining differences.