Speaking at a meeting of the Aero Club of Washington on Monday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.), said he was angry that there hasn't been a long-term funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), warning that another shut down is not out of the question.
The chairman of the Senate's Science and Transportation Committee, Rockefeller blamed the aviation industry for the delay, saying that competing interests were harming their collective goal to reauthorize the FAA bill that has been temporarily extended over 20 times since 2007.
The current FAA extension expires on Jan. 31.
He said that the airlines' insistence on a provision making it more difficult for airline workers to unionize was the primary holdup.
I am both angry and frustrated that after four years, Congress still has not been able to pass a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, he said at the meeting.
Everyone in this room recognizes the FAA is one of the most important agencies in the federal government, but that doesn't seem to force compromise.
Rockefeller said that the inability of the industry to work tougher was one of the most critical problems and an embarrassment.
I need your help and, frankly, I haven't been getting nearly enough, Rockefeller reprimanded the luncheon audience, which included dozens of industry lobbyists.
This past summer, Senate Democrats accused House Republicans of inserting unnecessary cuts into a short-term extension of FAA in response to the Senate not going along with changes to union rules for transportation workers. Roughly 4,000 workers were put on leave during the stalemate, which aviation advocates said cost the federal government about $30 million per day in lost sales taxes on airline tickets.
I have to move beyond the political ugliness of this summer, Rockefeller said Monday. I want a bill. I want a Next Generation Air Traffic Control System; I want a viable airline industry; I want modern airports; I want a healthy industry; I want a thriving workforce; and I want the good jobs that come with a growing U.S. aerospace industry.
He warned the Aero Club, If the FAA bill does not pass soon, I believe it will be some time before an FAA Reauthorization package will pass any Congress. Another shut down is not out of the question - and it would cost all of us far too much.
Rockefeller said the industry must put more pressure on Congress to pass a bill, which is vitally important to proposed plans to modernize the nation's aviation system.