Rockefeller Statement on Republicans Once Again Objecting to Clean FAA Extension

August 1, 2011

Chairman Jay RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today went to the Senate floor to request unanimous consent that a clean extension of the Federal Aviation System (FAA) be passed.  After Republicans objected, Rockefeller expressed disappointment and frustration as they continue to keep thousands of FAA workers furloughed without pay and stall important airport improvement projects. He said that the GOP in the House and Senate have now made it clear that the FAA dispute is clearly about an anti-worker agenda.

Chairman Rockefeller’s prepared remarks follow:

We are entering the second week of a partial shutdown of the FAA.  I know that the Congress, the President, and the American people have been focused on our efforts to secure a deal to raise our debt limit, but I want to make clear that the impact of the shutdown of the FAA is causing real pain across the country.  

Because Congress has failed to pass a 21st short-term extension of the FAA, we have: allowed nearly 4,000 hard working FAA employees to be furloughed; halted hundreds of critical airport safety, capacity, and air traffic control projects; suspended payments to hundreds of small businesses dependent on reimbursement from the FAA for their work; delayed construction projects for which tens of thousands of workers were employed; and forgone more than $250 million in aviation tax revenue that is critical to supporting our aviation system.

Shortly, I will seek unanimous consent to pass a clean extension of the FAA.   

With so much damage being caused, you may ask why my Republican colleagues have refused repeated requests to pass a clean extension.  I want to outline how we have come to this point.  The Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has made it clear that House Republicans are willing to shut down the FAA in order to stick it to airline employees—especially those at one particular airline, Delta.  They are insisting on anti-worker language that didn’t even pass the House.  What they want now is much stronger than what passed, and they know full well the House-passed language was voted on and failed in the Senate.

The Senate appointed conferees over 100 days ago.  The Senate conferees of both parties have been willing to meet anytime once the House appointed its conferees.  The House has failed to do so.  Despite the lack of a formal conference, we have resolved roughly 250 provisions.  Less than a dozen issues of consequence remain to be resolved.  I also sent over suggested language on significant Essential Air Service (EAS) reforms six weeks ago to Chairman Mica—reforms that save $71 million each year for the 4 years of the bill. 

But, six weeks ago, the House passed a clean short-term extension—the 20th—and promptly left on a week tour of European and Middle East airports.  Since they returned, I have been told that unless and until the Senate accepts House language on their proposed changes to the National Mediation Board, they would negotiate no further.  

On July 20, the House sent over the 21st extension of the FAA with a retaliatory policy rider on EAS—specifically targeted at rural communities in the states of Democratic Senators.  If the House was serious about reforming the EAS program, it would have stayed at the negotiation table.  The House-passed extension isn’t about good policy, it is about politics—the kind of politics I believe Americans are tired of seeing.  

So here we are on the eve of the August recess.  We have a choice tonight—we can pass a clean extension and put people back to work, or we can continue to punish innocent FAA employees, small businesses, and our airports by failing to act.  We have inflicted far too much damage on our aviation system for the needs of one airline.  So I urge my colleagues to allow this consent agreement to go forward.