Senate Commerce Committee chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (pictured, left), Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) (pictured, right), and Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced and passed legislation (S. 853) late Thursday that would provide the FAA the authority to utilize unspent Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds and additional flexibility to transfer other funding within the FAA, up to $253 million, to prevent reduced operations and staffing during fiscal year 2013. This legislative solution will ensure a safe and efficient air transportation system. The legislation does not increase the FAA’s budget authority or exceed the 2011 Budget Control Act limits. On Sunday, the FAA began furloughs of 47,000 employees – due to the sequester – that have led to significant flight delays across the aviation system.
“Tonight we worked together in the Senate to avoid total gridlock in our aviation system and avert the real harm that rampant delays would cause to our economy and jobs,” said Rockefeller. “By plugging a hole in the budget and providing the FAA with crucial funds to operate the air traffic control system, we will eliminate flight delays due to inadequate staffing and keep America moving. This does not fix all of the problems the FAA faces because of budget cuts, especially for contract towers in rural communities. And it does nothing for other essential government operations and employees that also desperately need relief. But it's a start, and I'm committed to keep working on more solutions.”
“I want to thank my colleagues for working together to resolve this issue for air travelers,” said Thune. “While I would have preferred the Secretary of Transportation and the FAA Administrator had planned and better managed its resources to avoid flight delays that the American public suffered this week, our bipartisan legislation returns air traffic controllers to the towers which best serves air travelers, aviation safety, and the economy.”
“The challenges the FAA faces this fiscal year are daunting; not only is the agency operating under a continuing resolution but sequestration compounds the problem. It’s unfortunate that these irresponsible cuts led to widespread delays to the air transportation system,” said Collins. “I met with Transportation Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta this morning to discuss a possible solution. I am delighted that the Senate has passed our bipartisan bill to restore funding for essential programs at the FAA and avoid the unnecessary furloughs of air traffic controllers. This agreement will help avoid onerous delays for the traveling public and keep people working.”
“Automatic budget cuts known as sequestration have left many of our businesses and travelers languishing in long lines at our nation's airports,” said Udall. This is an unacceptable and avoidable drag on our resurgent economy. That's why I am proud to stand with Senators Collins, Rockefeller and Thune to announce a bipartisan solution to unchain our airports and restore common sense to the FAA. We need to reduce the federal budget deficit and cut federal spending, but we should not allow the blunt cuts of sequestration to cripple travel, tourism, business and commerce — all critical parts of our ongoing economic recovery. This deal is good news for Colorado, the West and our nation.”
Other cosponsors included: Senators Risch (R-ID), Hagan (D-NC), Roberts (R-KS), Isakson (R-GA), Toomey (R-PA), McCaskill (D-MO), Murkowski (R-AK), Warner (D-VA), Chambliss (R-GA), Nelson (D-FL), Begich (D-AK).
The legislation now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives for their consideration.FMI: www.senate.gov