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Thu, Mar 11, 2010

Corker Lifts Hold On FAA Reauthorization Bill

Full Senate Debate Can Begin, Members Can Offer Amendments

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) (pictured, right) has lifted his hold on the FAA reauthorization bill, which has been bottled up in the Senate because of language in the House version of the bill that Corker and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) say would be harmful to Memphis-Based FedEx.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that the move was confirmed by Corker's press secretary, Laura Herzog. Corker's staff had met throughout the day with families of those who died when Colgan Air Flight 3407 went down in Buffalo in February of 2008.

Corker and Alexander had objected to the bill because, in the version passed by the House, it restricts coverage under the Federal Railway Act only to employees requiring FAA certification. Currently, FedEx employees are covered by the Railway act, and the reauthorization as it passed the House last year would end that coverage. UPS, which is represented by the Teamsters, favors the House version of the bill. The Buffalo News reports that, while the Senate version does not include that specific provision, Corker was concerned that it could be added by amendment, or in a conference committee. Senator Alexander had vowed to use "any legislative means available", including a filibuster, to be sure the bill did not pass with changes to the Railway Act. If the house version is passed, local FedEx drivers would be eligible to organize with the Teamsters union, where under the Railway Act, they may only organize as a national group.

But the bill also includes several provisions dealing with pilot fatigue and other safety issues that are part of the FAA's "Call to Action", created in part to address concerns raised by the Colgan Air crash. New York Democrat Charles Schumer has proposed language that would increase the minimum time required to serve as a co-pilot for an airline to 1,500 hour from the current 250.

The FAA reauthorization bill was first stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, which insisted its priority was the health care legislation. When it was finally reported out, Corker placed his hold on the bill because of his concerns about the Railway Act provisions. The bill is now cleared for consideration by the full Senate



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