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Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COSTELLO. I thank the ranking member for yielding to me.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation before us today. The legislation is a clean extension of the FAA bill and also takes the authorization through the extension through January 31 of 2012.

In February of this year, the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill by a vote of 87-8. By contrast, in April the House approved an extension that was very controversial, and it was a bill that was passed on a party-line vote. In fact, the House-passed bill passed by the narrowest vote margin for a House FAA authorization bill in almost 30 years.

I said at the time that the poison pill provision that was put in the bill by the majority would prevent the bill from passing both the House and the Senate and being signed into law by the President. And, in fact, the White House said that they would veto the legislation with the poison pill provision. So we knew at that point that the reauthorization bill was not going anywhere with that provision in the bill.

It's been 5 months since the other body invited the House leadership to appoint conferees and sit down at the table with Senate conferees to, in fact, try and work out an agreement between the House and the Senate. In July of this year, instead of passing a clean FAA extension, the Republican leadership put a poison pill provision in that extension that led to a shutdown of the FAA for almost 2 weeks, costing the FAA more than $400 million in lost revenue in that 2-week period. I'm pleased that the House leadership stepped in, brought a clean extension to the floor today.

The American people are tired of all the games. They're tired of all the one side blaming the other side. They want reasonable people to come together, in this body and in the Senate, to act reasonably and do the right thing.

The Senate has appointed their conferees. We should appoint--the Republican leadership in the House should appoint conferees in this body immediately so that we, in fact, can get a long-term authorization bill. Let's stop the games. Let's appoint conferees so that we can pass a comprehensive reauthorization bill now.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 2887, the ``Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011.'' This bill contains a ``clean'' extension of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) authority to spend from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and to carry out airport improvement projects at current funding levels through January 31, 2012.

In February, the Senate approved a bipartisan comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill by a wide 87-to-8-vote margin. By contrast, in April the House approved an extremely controversial FAA reauthorization bill by a party-line vote. The House bill, in fact, garnered the narrowest vote margin for a House FAA reauthorization bill in almost 30 years, and the White House has threatened to veto it.

Since the House FAA reauthorization bill was introduced, I, and several House Republicans, have warned that it contains a number of controversial ``poison pill'' provisions that seriously jeopardize the enactment of a long-term bill this year. It is now clear that we were absolutely right.

It has been five months since the Senate invited House Republicans to join them at the bargaining table, appoint conferees, and complete work on a long-term FAA reauthorization. Yet Republican gamesmanship and insistence on poison pill provisions have so far led to an FAA shutdown and a complete failure to enact long-term, job-creating legislation.

In July, the House Republicans attached an objectionable policy rider on rural air service cuts to the short-term FAA extension. The policy rider was included as a ``tool'' to pressure Senate Democrats into giving into Republicans'' assault on collective-bargaining rights in a long-term reauthorization bill.

My Republican colleagues' strategy backfired, however, and resulted in a shutdown of the FAA for two weeks. In those two weeks, the shutdown cost the Nation almost $400 million in lost revenue--more than 20 times the amount of money that, according to House Republicans, their policy rider would have saved over the course of an entire year. Tens of thousands of American jobs were jeopardized. The Nation cannot afford the cost and burden of a repeat performance, so I will support this clean four-month FAA extension.

However, I am very concerned about the events leading up to the introduction of this extension. Immediately following last month's disastrous FAA shutdown, House Republicans issued a defiant press release threatening to use new ``tools'' to coerce Senate Democrats. Yet, there have been no discussions or negotiations with the Senate since the shutdown, and House Republicans still refuse to appoint conferees to complete a long- term bill.

Late last week, Chairman MICA was quoted by reporters stating there would be a ``new
twist'' in the FAA extension. Then on Friday, the press reported that House Republicans would introduce another ``go it alone'' FAA extension bill with across-the-board-cuts to FAA programs. But on Friday night, House Republicans backed off their plan and made public a new clean highway and FAA extension.

Mr. Speaker, House Republicans just don't get it. The American public is sick and tired of grandstanding and games. Nobody wants to see any more new twists in reauthorizing the FAA. The House Republicans have failed to enact a long-term FAA reauthorization bill this year, they have refused to appoint conferees and move the process forward, and they have nobody to blame but themselves for their failure.

While I support this four-month extension, I now believe that Congress should consider a long-term one year extension of FAA programs. I have said before, and I will say again, that serial extensions are creating uncertainty in the construction industry and costing us jobs. And now Republican political gamesmanship is creating new instability that is hurting the economy.

For the meantime, with these reservations, I support this extension in the interest of keeping hard-working Americans at work and preventing another shutdown.

I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 2887, the ``Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011.''

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