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Public Statements

Conference Report on H.R. 658, FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WEBSTER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this rule and the underlying bill. House Resolution 533 provides for a standard rule for consideration of the conference report for H.R. 658, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA, the United States aviation industry currently accounts for nearly 11 million jobs and contributes $1.3 trillion to the Nation's gross domestic product.

Regrettably, since September 30, 2007, the FAA has operated under a series of short-term, stopgap extensions. In fact, there have been 23 extensions of the FAA programs since the last multiyear reauthorization was signed into law 8 years ago. I'm relieved that we have finally stopped playing politics with the safety of our airline passengers and appear to be on the verge of passing a necessary, meaningful, and long-term FAA reauthorization.

The FAA conference report provides responsible funding for FAA safety programs, air traffic control modernization efforts, known as NextGen, and operations through 2015. It holds spending at fiscal year 2011 levels while providing $13.4 billion in projects that will create much needed construction jobs. The conference report contains no earmarks, and it does not raise taxes or passenger facility charges during this difficult economic time.

With the passage of the reauthorization, the deployment of NextGen technologies to replace our current, outdated, ground-based air traffic control system will begin. NextGen will bring an estimated net $281 billion benefit to the overall U.S. economy through decreased flight delays, decreased fuel use, and job opportunities for new, high-tech companies.

The House-Senate agreement will also improve aviation safety for passengers, reform antiquated programs that have become overly reliant on government subsidies, and establish a process to address outdated and obsolete air traffic control facilities, thereby saving taxpayer dollars.

Because we are finally passing a 4-year authorization, the conference report will provide long-term certainty for the aviation industry and all who rely upon it. This certainty will produce an environment which allows for the creation of high-paying and sustainable jobs. Instead of wondering whether or not the next extension will squeeze by just before the expiration, employees and job creators can budget, plan, and grow with confidence that government will not pull the rug out from under them.

While I'm excited that we have finally embraced the benefits of certainty and stability when it comes to our aviation system, I can't help but state what many Americans probably feel is obvious: This is how the system is supposed to work.

Far too often, Congress jumps from crisis to crisis, many of which appear to this freshman Member to be self-created. Far too often, because of the unwillingness of some to cooperate, we have been forced to wait until we're up against some kind of deadline that if we don't act, something else looms on the other side. This is no way to legislate, and it's no way to govern. It certainly isn't the legislative process I learned in my 7th grade civics class. Instead, we should be striving to do our work as the Founding Fathers envisioned. They understood and anticipated that the House of Representatives and the Senate would not always walk in lockstep agreement on every issue.

On the second day of the first Congress, on April 7, 1789, there was a conference committee appointed by the House and Senate, and they worked out their differences. Since that time, the House and Senate have formulated positions, each of which may be somewhat different, and yet conferees would be appointed to manage that Chamber's position and to hash out differences and produce an agreement that both Chambers could agree on.

In my first year in Washington, however, it seemed that is the exception much more than the rule. Much more often, one side takes a position, and then on the other side they refuse to do the same, and there's a lack of any kind of compromise or cooperation. I'm not interested in assigning any blame on whom or why that has taken place or why the process is the way it is. I do believe, though, that cooperation takes a willing partner, and we can be that willing partner.

Today is a good day, but we have so much more work to do. Even though the process is not a headline-getting opportunity, the process is important. To me, the more we can push down the pyramid of power and spread out the base and let every Member be a player, we'll have a process that both the House and the Senate can work on and work with each other on and cooperate and the better the policy will be. If the process is broken, sure enough, the product is broken. If the process is good, as this process has been, then I guarantee you, the unintended consequences that usually appear in bills that are pushed through in the dark of night are done away with. And we have an opportunity to do that today. So no one got everything they wanted, and yet this is a picture of how it ought to be.

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