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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, before the Senator from West Virginia leaves, I would like to publicly thank him for all his support in something that just happened a few minutes ago; that is, passage of the Pilot's Bill of Rights.
Several--certainly Senator Begich--have been working hard, including Senator Pryor and Senator Manchin, as well as many on the Republican side. But it is a reality now.
This is kind of a strange day for me because I have been working on two bills for 1 1/2 years, and both will become a reality on the same day: the highway bill that everyone knows about and then the Pilot's Bill of Rights that only pilots know about.
I have been a pilot for 55 years, and I get the calls and complaints that come in. But pilots are really the only ones in our society who are denied access to justice like every other citizen has, and this corrects it. So I just want to say to my friend that I very much appreciate his support in making this a reality.
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Mr. INHOFE. I appreciate the comments of the Senator from West Virginia.
Mr. President, I will make a couple comments and be more detailed later. I know a lot of people will want to talk about the bill that will most likely pass today in both the House and the Senate.
A lot of people are not aware of the fact that a general aviation pilot doesn't have the same access to remedies as everybody else does. What makes this a little bit more compelling to do something about is that if you are not a pilot, you may not appreciate the fact that a lot of them are single-issue people.
I had an experience where my license was in jeopardy for something that we found out I didn't do. I thought about all these complaints I have had over the years about abusive treatment by some of the enforcement people, and I never appreciated it until it happened to me.
I know more people in the FAA who do a great job. They are very conscientious. These are career people. The problem is that every once in a while you have someone in the field with enforcement powers who just can't handle that kind of power.
I was mayor of Tulsa for several years a number of years back. We had a great police force, but every now and then you had someone on the force who couldn't handle the power. They would abuse that power, and you would have to seek them out. And that is what this is all about--you hear from these people when abuses take place.
So what we have done is we have corrected that. We have a system set up in this legislation that if someone is accused of or cited for doing something that was wrong or that might be a violation of one of the FARs, that person will now have access to the evidence that would be used against that person.
People might say: Well, wasn't that happening anyway? No, it wasn't. When this happened to me, I can remember very well--and I say to the Presiding Officer because we are very close and he knows I have been active in aviation for a long time--one year ago in October, I went to land at one of the southernmost airports in America, in South Texas, one at which I have landed more than 200 times. I know every square foot of it. It is a noncontrolled field.
When I came in--there is a thing called NOTEM, Notice to Airmen. You are supposed to and you should find out what the NOTEMs are on the runway you will be landing on so if there is work on the runway--any towers going up, construction going on--you will know that in advance. That is your obligation.
The problem is there has never been a central location where that can be found. In this case there was no NOTEM that had been published. There I go in, with the controller in the valley down there who has actually cleared me to land. Here I am, a United States Senator. It took me 4 months to get the voice recorder and I never did find out, early on, what the evidence was against me. It turned out fine, but nevertheless 4 months to get a voice recording that you were cleared to land, that is unreasonable.
I see my friend from Indiana is on the floor. I do not want to take any more time on this, but on the NOTEM situation we will have a central location for that.
The other problem we are having right now is medical certification. I have case after case. In fact, at the AOPA, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association--we are talking about 400,000 pilots out there--they have as their No. 1 concern the lack of consistency and uniformity in medical certification. A person could be a pilot and have a condition, could be a light heart attack or something, temporarily lose his license, then go back and have it reinstated. However, if he lives in another town, has a different doctor, that may not happen. So we have people out there who have lost their licenses. We are going to have a panel set up that is going to include the general aviation, include the medical community, and try to get uniformity. So those are three of the reforms we have in this legislation.
I yield the floor. I will be talking about that later and also talking about the upcoming highway bill. I want to remind people, my good conservative friends, people who are trying to say this is not a conservative bill--it is. The worst thing we can do is continue to operate our roadbuilding and our construction in this country on extensions. When you do an extension you lose about 30 percent of the money. Obviously, the conservative position is to do this.
We have reforms, incredible reforms, enhancement reforms. We will be talking about that during the course of the day.
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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I just have a couple of comments to make for clarification purposes.
First of all, I don't think anyone is going to question my conservative credentials over the years I have been here. I have been really offended by a lot of the things that have happened structurally in this institution, over in the House, but so far as this bill is concerned, let me clarify a couple of things.
It sounds good to stand up here and say we have only had a matter of minutes to look at something that is 500 pages. We have had this bill for a long time--for several days. We have had it and gone over everything. On the bill we sent from the Senate to the House, it is essentially the same thing.
I didn't agree when they added the two provisions on student loan and flood insurance. I didn't agree with that. Everyone knows those issues, but I don't think they should have been on here. Nonetheless, we didn't have any control in this body over that. But as far as the provisions of the bill are concerned, these provisions we have seen. And everyone who has spoken against it has been there when we have talked about the great reforms, and I have commented several times that I thought one of the problems was we did too good a job because we had too many reforms. But when it got over to the House, where they are inclined to have more reforms there, they had to start from a base where we had done a good job. Streamlining and enhancements and all those things are in it.
The only thing I can say, from a conservative perspective, is we have seen this bill. We have lived with this bill, not just hours but for days, and actually for weeks, the basic provisions of the bill. But what we have to realize is there is an alternative to what we are doing here today, and that alternative--and the only alternative--is to go back to extensions.
If we go back to extensions, a couple of things happen. No. 1, we don't have any of the reforms we have in the bill; No. 2, we throw away about 30 percent of the money----
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Mr. INHOFE. I respond, yes, that is correct. That is accurate.
I think that is very important too because we have been talking about this bill for a long period of time. We actually started trying to get a highway reauthorization bill way back in 2009, when the old bill from 2005 expired.
But the problem is--and I want to get back to where I was--there is an alternative to this bill. If we defeat this bill, we go back to extensions. If we go back to extensions, first of all, we are losing about 30 percent of the money off the top. Everybody knows that. Secondly, we don't get these reforms. If people are concerned out there--conservatives--that they want to defeat this and go back to extensions, they are not going to have reform with the enhancements. Right now the law requires 10 percent, depending on how we want to put it, in total funding or 2 percent of surface transportation. That has to be spent on transportation enhancements.
My good friend, the chairman of the committee, Senator Boxer, and I disagree on enhancements. She likes them; I don't. I want money to be spent on concrete, on roads and bridges. This is what I think we should be doing. But that is a disagreement we had and so we had a compromise where she can have--and anyone can have--what they want. It is an oversimplification, but it means, yes, this money is going to be put into something. It can be enhancements. In my State of Oklahoma, it is not going to be in enhancements, it is going to be paying for some of the unfunded mandates. It will be paying for things we have to do in terms of the environment and things that are required. So we have solved that problem. If we don't pass this bill, we go right back and it will have to go to enhancements.
On streamlining, all the streamlining is in this in terms of environmental streamlining. Talk to any of the road contractors out there and they will tell you about the waste of money and the number of miles of roads they can't do because of some of these requirements--these environmental requirements. We have streamlined those requirements. If we don't pass this bill, we will go back to extensions and the same thing applies--we are going to lose all those opportunities. So not only will it cost more, we will not get the streamlining.
I am very proud of a group that has always supported me, the American Conservative Union. Is there anyone around here who doesn't think the American Conservative Union isn't conservative? I made this a part of a speech yesterday, an editorial by Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union. It is an op-ed piece he wrote. But let me read now two short paragraphs from this op-ed piece from the American Conservative Union:
Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution specifically lists interstate road-building as one of the delineated powers and responsibilities vested in the federal Government. In Federalist Paper #42, James Madison makes an early case for the federal government's role in maintaining a healthy infrastructure, by stating ``Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between states, can be deemed unworthy of the public care.''
And the article goes on to say--and, remember, this is the American Conservative Union.
Perhaps most importantly, those of us who believe in constitutional conservatism understand that unlike all the things the Federal Government wastes our money on, transportation spending is at the core of what constitutes legitimate spending.
That is from the American Conservative Union. I wanted people to understand that voting for this is the conservative approach. We get more for the money being spent, it has all the streamlining in it, and it is our constitutional responsibility. This is what we are supposed to do. There are only two ways of doing it: one way is to pass this bill and the other is to operate under extensions, and I think it is very important for people to understand that.
With that, I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I second the chairwoman's commitment to working with the Senators from Wyoming to fix this problem in the technical corrections bill. It is important that we find a way to address the issue as soon as possible, and I will work with them to make Wyoming and the other impacted States whole.
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