May Spell Trouble For Bill's Chances Of Avoiding Bush Veto
ANN REALTIME UPDATE 06.28.07 1900
EDT: Bring on the amendments. On Thursday, the US House
Transportation & Infrastructure Committee voted to include two
amendments which have strong support in Congress... but may
endanger the bill's chances of avoiding a presidential veto.
Confirming earlier reports, the committee overwhelmingly voted
to include the Costello Amendment, which proposed to send the FAA
and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association back to the
bargaining table for 45 days. If the two sides aren't able to
hammer out a mutually favorable contract -- and if the past is any
indication, there's little to no chance of that happening -- the
two sides would then go to binding arbitration. The amendment also
contains so-called "reachback provisions," which would reimburse
controllers for back pay retroactive to 2005.
The Bush administration is strongly opposed to such a plan -- a
point lamented by many Republican lawmakers, who nevertheless voted
in support of the amendment on Thursday.
The second amendment, called the Oberstar Amendment, would
move FedEx Corporation's operations from under the 1926 Railway
Labor Act -- which prevents local businesses from forming their own
unions, instead calling for unionization on a national scale -- to
the National Labor Relations Act. The latter governs most of
FedEx's competitors, including UPS, and would give individual FedEx
operations the right to seek out their own labor unions.
Again, that's not a plan expected to be met with cheers from the
White House. In fact, the Bush administration has already
threatened to veto any FAA Reauthorization Bill containing either
amendment... and this one has both.
06.28.07 1200 EDT: Late Wednesday night, the US
House of Representatives issued its draft FAA legislation by the
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee... and it is most
notable, for what it doesn't include.
At the top of the list of what's missing from H.R. 2881, are
user fees... mostly. While it appears true the bill holds to
promises made by House lawmakers over the past several weeks --
that the most onerous proposed charges would be scrapped -- the
costs of pilot certificates, airworthiness certificates, and
aircraft registrations will rise under the House plan. And sharply.
To offset the costs of implementing the FAA's proposed "NextGen"
air traffic control system, the House bill does increase fuel taxes
-- 21.8 cents per gallon to 30.7 cents per gallon for jet fuel,
while avgas would see a 25 percent increase, from 19.3 cents per
gallon to 24.1 cents per gallon.
Also left off the draft legislation is language meant to settle
an ongoing labor contract dispute between the FAA, and its unions
-- especially, the National Air Traffic Controllers
Congressional Quarterly reports unions have been pushing to
change a 1996 law, governing the way the agency conducts itself if
an impasse is declared in negotiations. As we saw during last year's talks between
the agency and NATCA, that law gives the FAA the right
to unilaterally impose its most recent contract offer, so long as
Congress does not intervene.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were pressing for a change
that would send the contracts to binding arbitration instead -- a
move the Bush administration is opposed to.
In the interest of presenting the FAA draft as a bipartisan
bill, the contract language was left out completely. Florida Rep.
John Mica, the committee's top Republican, threatened to withdraw
his sponsorship of the bill if the calls for binding arbitration
"We’re under the gun but we've
moved it forward, we've done everything we can to try to get a
resolution on the labor dispute," Mica said. "But it continues to
dominate the bill, unfortunately."
All may not be lost for parties pushing for binding arbitration,
though. Supporters of the plan intend to instead offer those
provisions as an amendment to the draft Thursday.
Mica told CQ Wednesday night the draft proposal also would not
include a proposed "Passengers Bill of Rights" for airline
ANN will have more details on the bill as they become available,
as well as reaction throughout the industry to the bill. Stay