U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene an executive session on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. in Hart Senate Office Building 216 to consider the following legislative measures and nominations.
Click here for additional information on nominees.
- Nomination of Stephen M. Dickson, of Georgia, to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration
- Nomination of Michelle A. Schultz, of Pennsylvania, to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board
- Coast Guard Promotions
- S. 149, Stop Senior Scams Act, Sponsors: Sens. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
- S. 153, Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act, Sponsors: Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev,)
- S. 384, the Composites Standards Act, Sponsors: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.),
- S. 553, Blockchain Promotion Act, Sponsors: Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.)
- S. 1342, Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Index Act, Sponsors: Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Todd Young (R-Ind.)
- S. 1427, Global Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing Act, Sponsors: Sens. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
- S. 1601, Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in the Rear Seat (HOT CARS) Act, Sponsors: Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
- S. 1611, Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act, Sponsors: Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
- S. 1694, One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act, Sponsors: Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)
- S. 1881, Veterans Expedited TSA Screening (VETS) Safe Travel Act, Sponsors: Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)
*Agenda subject to change
Executive Session Details:
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Hart Senate Office Building 216
Results of the markup can be found here.
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thanks for holding this important NASA hearing today about the plans to return American astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024. Fifty years ago yesterday, NASA launched the Apollo 11 mission and 5 days later, on July 20th, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon. Five subsequent Apollo missions successfully landed 10 more Americans – and I should say 3 lunar rovers built in the state of Washington and we’re very proud of the role that we played.
Just as importantly, the Apollo program inspired an entire generation of engineers and scientists. Some of them went on to space careers, but many of them went on to other careers in other fields of high technology. This generation of dreamers and thinkers firmly established the United States as a global leader in innovation and technology. The space race and NASA’s investment in space also perpetrated a thriving commercial space industry that exists today - and again very proud of those companies that reside in the state of Washington, using the expertise of many Washington scientists and engineers to help us achieve this mission.
The benefits of space exploration are clear. NASA should continue to push the boundaries of space science, exploration, and technology, and I’m pleased that NASA has started to outline a plan deep into space. I also appreciate that NASA’s looking at the non-traditional partnerships that the commercial space community can give in that relationship, and in space exploration. Today NASA has been developing the rocket and spacecraft needed for deep space exploration missions for more than nine years, and NASA’s own estimate is that SLS and Orion won’t be ready to fly crew until 2022 at the earliest. So NASA has just started to study the lunar landers and other critical hardware needed for a moon mission. It’s hard to believe that all these key pieces can fall together in just the next five years.
Furthermore, last week I know you made some changes at the organization – the head of human exploration – and so with that and NASA’s retirement of the space shuttle, the question of where is the leadership within the organization to deliver on this goal will be some of the things I’m going to drill down on in the Q&A part of this hearing this morning. And finally, NASA has yet to deliver a congressional budget for the mission beyond 2020, so it’s difficult for us to approve the mission if we don’t know what the ultimate cost will be to the taxpayers.
While we celebrate this unbelievable accomplishment and the fact that you’re continuing to be pioneers in space, we also need to look at the next chapter of exploration and make sure it’s a successful one. I appreciate the value of ambition and vision, but I also look forward to hearing from you, Administrator Bridenstine, on just exactly we’re going to meet this challenge.
So again, thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing, and I would like to include for the record the testimony of Dr. Patricia Sanders, the head of NASA’s aerospace safety advisory board, was highlighted some of the challenges I mentioned.
Chairman Roger Wicker
Good morning and welcome to the Commerce Committee’s sixth executive session of the 116th Congress. Before we take up today’s agenda, let me provide a short update on the committee’s activities.
So far, we have reported nearly 20 bipartisan bills – and we intend to add another 10 to that count today.
Bills already reported reflect this committee’s broad jurisdiction and include measures to:
- Combat illegal robocalls
- Strengthen the maritime industry
- Protect America’s oceans
- Encourage STEM education
- Expand rural broadband
We have also made progress on one of our top priorities -- consumer data privacy. I hope to preview a bipartisan product in the coming weeks, and I look forward to continuing to work with my friend Ranking Member Cantwell and other members of the committee to accomplish this goal.
Today’s agenda includes several bipartisan legislative proposals to protect children from risk in hot cars, support veterans, and advance the Internet of Things.
The committee will also vote on two nominations and several Coast Guard promotions.
One of today’s nominees is Stephen Dickson to serve as the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Mr. Dickson was chosen for this important position based on his strong qualifications, which include almost 40 years of combined service in the U.S. Air Force and the commercial air transportation sector.
Mr. Dickson is a 1979 Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy and graduated magna cum laude from Georgia State University College of Law in 1999, where he earned his J.D. He served in the U.S. Air Force as an F-15 fighter pilot, including assignments as a Flight Commander, Instructor Pilot, and Flight Examiner.
From 1991 until October of 2018, Mr. Dickson was employed by Delta Air Lines as a pilot and management executive. He retired after rising through the ranks to become Delta’s Senior Vice President of Flight Operations.
On May 15th, the committee held a hearing to consider Mr. Dickson’s nomination, and he clearly demonstrated the experience and leadership abilities necessary to lead the FAA.
After Mr. Dickson’s hearing, new information came to the committee’s attention that involved employees reporting possible safety violations at Mr. Dickson’s former employer while he was serving as a senior vice president. These matters merited further investigation. The committee has since conducted an extensive review, including multiple follow-up conversations and meetings with Mr. Dickson. We have studied hundreds of pages of legal documents. It is clear that Mr. Dickson was not a named party in any of these matters and was not personally alleged to have retaliated against any of his fellow employees who raised safety concerns.
Mr. Dickson’s responses to post-hearing Questions for the Record demonstrate that his commitments to safety and the protection of employees who report concerns are paramount. In fact, Mr. Dickson unequivocally stated in his written responses that he was never named as a party to any judicial, administrative or regulatory proceedings and he was never accused of retaliation of any sort during his tenure at his former employer.The FAA is the gold standard in aviation safety. It is vital to have a Senate-confirmed Administrator at the helm of the FAA at this crucial time for the agency. I believe Mr. Dickson is an excellent nominee for this position. I think he will bring the commitment, experience, and expertise necessary to lead the FAA and fulfill its mission. I will be voting for his nomination and I urge all of my colleagues to do so.
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell
Thank you Mr. Chairman and thanks for that briefing on the bipartisan nature of the committee to date, and our continued work on trying to move privacy legislation in the future. I’m pleased that there are eleven bills on today’s agenda, and several nominations and Coast Guard promotions. I’m pleased that we are marking up the HOT CAR legislation that you’ve been a leader in in the past, and that we have taken action here to make sure that we’re moving a good bipartisan bill in the future, and I commend Senator Blumenthal for working on that legislation. I’m also happy to see the STEM Careers Act, because it’s such an important issue in the state of Washington with a record number of veterans and ways in which aerospace industry jobs can further go to veterans for the future. Likewise, the Composite Standards Act that our colleagues are promoting is also excellent legislation, in helping with Capito and Peters to promote something that is already a cost-effective source of designing for aerospace and for cars, now can look for ways to be a good source for transportation infrastructure investment. Also, I’d like to voice my strong support for the Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Act. We need to protect this great treasure that is part of the Midwest, and I certainty support our colleagues who have pushed this legislation here in the committee – Senator Peters and Senator Young. We need to protect our national treasures, and this Great Lakes legislation will help us do that.
I also support the Schultz nomination. Today Michelle Schultz is a member of the Surface Transportation Board. She’s already been favorably voted out of this committee, and I hope that she will be paired with a nominee on the floor so that we can have a full slate of confirmed nominees for this important job.
When it comes to the Dickson nomination, Mr. Chairman – we had a hearing on Mr. Dickson, and I think it was very clear from all the aviation hearings we’ve had today that safety is our top priority. I know that Mr. Dickson, at his hearing, did not discuss these issues, and it was after the hearing that we received considerable information from a whistleblower about activities that happened during Mr. Dickson’s time at Delta Airlines, since he was in charge of the flight safety regimen. A whistleblower, that just happens to reside in the State of Washington, brought forth various concerns to then Mr. Dickson and to the organization in the wake of A330 flights, the Air France flight and Qantas flight, that basically had had malfunctions, and in the Air France case, caused an accident that killed many people.
As an A330 pilot, my constituent brought numerous concerns to the forefront of the Delta organization – because of the level of automation and lack of pilot training that may have existed and caused concerns about the A330 incidents. But instead of those concerns being brought forward in recommendations to the organization, instead this pilot was retaliated against. And I don’t mean a general retaliation, I mean an absurd retaliation – a retaliation in which she was sent to a psychiatrist who then claimed, just because she juggled marriage, children, and being a pilot, that somehow she must be manic. And she was, because of that action by Delta, removed from flying, even though she had been a pilot for many years – decades. Well thankfully, the reinstatement through the normal legal process of the ALPA process for pilots and the FAA, this pilot was recertified to fly by other psychiatrists who did not find her to be manic, but actually voicing safety concerns.
Now this, in and of itself, may have been enough to say that Mr. Dickson either didn’t know about this or didn’t participate, but since our investigation it is very clear that Mr. Dickson did know, was involved with this pilot, did know what was happening, and failed to disclose it to this committee. Our committee routinely asks about whether people are involved in legal disputes; he failed to mention this very prominent case that Delta was involved in. Now it could be that he simply forgot, but as the committee has searched for more information on Mr. Dickson on this, he has made it clear he thinks the handling of the situation was just fine.
Well I know this, that the A330 incidents, and the Max incidents on the Boeing planes, all mean that we are entering a new era of aviation, where automation and pilot training need to have further scrutiny, and certainly, certainly, more transparency. We certainly can’t have organizations who threaten pilots with this kind of retaliation to actually stop them from flying when in reality they are just reporting what they think are the needed improvements to a safety management system. That is why this nomination is also been objected to by Captain Sullenberger, who has come to the aid of this whistleblower to simply say: pilots have to be listened to.
So I hope our colleagues will take this issue seriously, look into the case of this whistleblower, and the fact that the lack of transparency before this committee about this egregious issue has not been given its due. Therefore I cannot support Mr. Dickson’s nomination, and I ask my colleagues to also not support his nomination.