U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today joined lead co-sponsors Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and a bipartisan group of senators in introducing the Dependable Air Service Act. The legislation would give the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the flexibility to transfer funds between accounts in order to abate air traffic controller furloughs and avert mounting passenger delays and flight cancellations at America's airports.
In addition, the bill would give the Department of Transportation (DOT), which administers the FAA, the authority to move funds if necessary from other areas of the DOT budget to the FAA to prevent delays. While the flexibility currently exists within the FAA operations budget to mitigate delays, the Administration has not taken advantage of this flexibility. This measure will ensure that the FAA has the tools it needs to keep our air space system running safely and efficiently.
"It is unfortunate that the FAA has refused to use existing flexibility in its operational budget," Portman said. "It is even more disappointing that they have refused to ask Congress for additional flexibility, despite clear bipartisan support for a more nuanced approach to these cuts that doesn't leave passengers and pilots stranded. By giving DOT transfer authority to shift funds from the general DOT budget over to the FAA, this commonsense, bipartisan measure will ease the burden on those traveling and ensure that our pilots and passengers do not bear the brunt of the cuts.
"The sequester is the wrong way to address our out-of-control deficits, and I remain disappointed that legislation I supported to give the Administration the flexibility to target spending reductions and make cuts with a scalpel rather than a meat cleaver didn't pass the Senate," Portman added.
"Clearly, there is room in the DOT discretionary accounts to mitigate some of the $206 million reduction to air traffic controllers," Hoeven said. "America's economy runs on transportation, including air travel, and delays like we're seeing this week are disrupting commerce and causing real inconvenience for travelers. Our bill addresses the issue directly and in a bipartisan way by giving the secretary of transportation the flexibility he needs to prioritize his budget and put air traffic controllers back on the job for America's traveling public."
"Air traffic controllers are critical to ensuring families and business travelers can get to their destinations safely and efficiently," Klobuchar said. "This legislation will give the FAA the flexibility it needs to keep air traffic controllers working to keep passengers safe, prevent flight delays, and make sure our aviation system can continue to be the strongest in the world."
The FAA already has authority to move 2 percent of its operational budget without congressional approval, and 5 percent with congressional approval, the senators said. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has indicated that this flexibility is not sufficient to address the problems, so this legislation provides any additional flexibility he may need by having access to the DOT budget. DOT's total budget for 2013 is $72 billion, of which $19 billion is discretionary funding.
In addition to Portman, Hoeven, and Klobuchar, the bill was cosponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Dan Coats (R-Ind.).