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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 658, FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LaTOURETTE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I want to begin by congratulating the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Webster). I understand this is the first rule he is managing, and you're doing a brilliant job so far. Hopefully that will be the case for the next 50 minutes as well.

I want to also congratulate Chairman Dreier and the Rules Committee for coming up with this rule. I have been here in the minority, I have been here in the majority, and the 33 amendments made in order under this rule beat by 28 the number made in order when we last considered this piece of legislation. So congratulations to you.

Sadly, I think for my friends in my party, one of the amendments made in order is mine. And it's what's caused me--although I fully support the rule; I'm going to vote for the rule--it's what causes me some angst relative to the bill.

I have to give a little bit of context and history. I was on the Transportation Committee when the first reauthorization of this bill was supposed to take place. This bill hadn't been reauthorized since 2003. This bill is about America's future because, among other things, it takes our air traffic control system from ground-based radar to satellite-based so that we can do a lot of wonderful things and continue to be the world leader. So we need to get this bill done.

But a funny thing keeps happening to this bill on the way to the bank, I guess. We first had a fight between Federal Express and UPS. It really doesn't have a lot to do with NextGen, but that screwed up the bill for a while. Then we had a fight with the air traffic controllers in the Bush administration, and that screwed up the bill for a while. Then we had a problem with something called PFCs; how much a passenger pays as a landing charge. Those fees, of course, are then turned into runways and infrastructure and employ a lot of people. So we didn't have a bill.

And then we almost got a bill. In the last Congress, Jim Oberstar and John Mica and Jerry Costello and Tom Petri did a really nice job, sent the bill over to the Senate, and a couple of Senators decided that they wanted to favor one airline over others and have additional flights--long-distance flights--from Reagan National Airport to their homes, I guess, on the west coast. And so one airline would have received 48 percent of the benefit and everybody else would have gotten the scraps. We didn't have a bill. Again, you say, Why do people get frustrated with Washington? What do any of those things have to do with whether or not we continue to be the world leader in aviation?

So now we come to this bill. And I have to tell you there is a poison pill in this bill. The Senate will not take up the bill as currently written. The President issued a statement of administration policy last night indicating he will veto the bill. And it's all over this one issue. This one issue doesn't belong in the bill.

Now, there are people around here that love unions and the unions can do no wrong. There are people around here that hate unions and unions can't do anything right. But what happened is the airlines and the railroads are organized and regulated under the Rail Labor Act, as opposed to the National Labor Relations Board Act. It's been that way since the 1930s. And for years the rule was that--75 years, actually--that if they wanted to certify a union, you had to get a majority of people in the whole class.

And Mr. McGovern is exactly right. Can you imagine there's about 200,000 people that are registered to vote in my congressional district. And so I stand for election, and if I got 70 percent, so 100,000 people show up--only half, which is about what we're averaging in this country--100,000 people show up, 70,000 vote for me. I'm pretty happy, popping the champagne corks, thinking I got a nice election going. But under the structure that's been in existence for all these years, those 100,000 people that didn't show up, they're counted against me. They're counted as ``no'' votes. Americans don't understand that kind of election process. It just doesn't make any sense. And the argument and the pushback against this is, Well, it's been that way for 75 years.

Now, the Speaker, I know, is a learned historian of American history. When the Constitution was written, only white men who owned property could vote in this country. And I'll bet if you asked the white guys, they were probably pretty happy about that, and they would say it works okay. For another hundred years, the women in this country couldn't vote. And maybe if you asked some of the men, they were probably happy about that as well. Just because something has been around for a long time doesn't make it right, doesn't make it fair. So the National Mediation Board, which has jurisdiction, changed the rule. They had a hearing. They asked for comments. They had a public meeting. They took a vote. And they changed the rule to the more fair procedure wherein those people that actually show up and vote, that's going to be the vote.

Now, have horrible things happened since this rule went into effect? No. One of the prime proponents of this rule change, Delta Airlines, they've had four elections since the rules were changed. The union has lost all four. And this dumb argument I heard the other day that only three people can come and form a union, that's nonsense. They had a 94 percent turnout at their election. So this encourages turnout.

The other thing I just want to mention is there's a lawsuit pending on this. The Air Transport Association sued the National Mediation Board. They lost.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. WEBSTER. I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. It's now in the Court of Appeals. We do our darnedest to say we're going to drain the swamp and do all the other stuff around here. But in this lawsuit--they've got a lot of members, the Air Transport Association--but here are the airlines--and I want everybody listening and following at home figure out what's going on here. The following members of the Air Transport Association opted out of this lawsuit: American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Southwest Airlines, UPS Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways.

This is a bad deal and we shouldn't be doing it.

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