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Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PASTOR of Arizona. I will tell my dear friend, Chairman Latham, that we agree on one thing, and this is the notion that this is not a good way to run a government. But I have to remind him and remind all my colleagues that about 1 1/2 years ago we were in this House, in this Chamber, talking about the budget--the Budget Control Act, as I remember. So about 1 1/2 years ago we had a vote.

I did not support the legislation because I felt that sequestration was a bad idea; but the House passed the bill, the Senate passed the bill, and the President signed it. So, for me, it's very difficult to lay blame on any one party because this was done in a bipartisan manner. It is very difficult for me to lay blame on one Chamber because both Chambers passed the bill. And it's very difficult for me to blame the administration for signing it because this was an action taken in the House, the Senate, and signed by the President. I thought it was a bad idea, but the majority felt it was a better idea, and they went forward.

Now, I have to tell you that Administrator Huerta was before our subcommittee this week. He detailed the cuts that he had to make based on the rules and regulations of the various laws that deal with sequestration. That is why 149 contract towers were recommended to be shut--but they remained open because of a lawsuit--and that is why we had to furlough the FAA air traffic controllers.

In his testimony, Administrator Huerta reminded us that in February of this year a letter was sent by Secretary LaHood to the leadership, including me and Chairman Latham, that the sequestration was going to cause problems in the efficiency of the air traffic control system because there would be a furlough of air traffic controllers in order to meet the cuts that were required by sequestration. That was done in February.

In March, when sequestration was invoked, the FAA had to then implement a plan to see what it had to do to meet the number of cuts it had to make, but not to take away the safety of our air traffic control system, knowing that its efficiency would be diminished. And so today, we are here bringing a fix to this situation. Furloughs have been taken; 10 percent of the employees are furloughed. And that has resulted, to the passengers' inconvenience, in delays or canceled flights.

The problem is--and I agree with my chairman--that this solution is not a good solution because there are other agencies that have to make their cuts and are in a crisis themselves. So, hopefully, when we come back from our district work period, there won't be another agency, another crisis that we have to start shifting money from one account to save another account.

Mr. Speaker, the solution is a comprehensive removal of the sequestration. That will only come about, in my belief and in my opinion, if the House, with its budget, and the Senate, with its budget, will conference and work out the details that it needs to work out to have a comprehensive solution, not just to our budget, but also to sequestration. That needs to be done in order that we're not dealing with issue by issue, crisis by crisis.

So I agree with my chairman that this is not a good way to run a government, but this morning I ask my colleagues to support this legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Last Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration began to impose the furloughs that were required as a result of sequestration.

The FAA has had to cut a total of $637 million from its annual budget; $485 million of that amount had to be cut from its operations account.

However, the deep cuts required by sequestration still forced the FAA to shut down nearly 150 contract towers and furlough each of the agency's employees for one day a pay period for the remainder of the fiscal year. That meant that every affected employee would lose as much as 11 days of pay.

The FAA operates seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. It should have surprised no one that removing 10 percent of the workforce on any given day was going to have serious impacts on our air traffic control system.

Without a complete workforce on hand, the FAA had to take measures to slow down the efficiency of the air traffic control system in order to ensure that safety of the system was not ever compromised.

Since last Sunday when the furloughs began, there have been nearly 3,500 delayed flights due to staffing reductions. As a result, thousands of passengers have been inconvenienced by long delays or cancelled flights. As my colleagues will recall, Secretary La Hood warned us of these impacts back in February.

The bill before us provides additional flexibility to the Federal Aviation Administration to help avoid the furloughs required by sequestration. Specifically, it takes carryover discretionary funds from the airport grant program and allows those funds to be used for FAA operations.

This bill is drafted as a one-time fix for one year. It does not eliminate a penny of the $637 million in cuts that the FAA has to make because of sequestration. It simply shifts where the cuts will be taken.

At a time when we need to maintain our infrastructure, we should not make a practice of reducing capital programs to address operational shortfalls.

The bill before us does nothing to address the sequestration cuts that the FAA will have to make in Fiscal Year 2014 and beyond.

We need to find a comprehensive solution to sequestration. The American people deserve better.

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Mr. PASTOR of Arizona. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

I rise to ask my colleagues to support this bill. It is a one-time fix in a crisis we are having today with our air traffic system. But I join my colleagues, as well as probably my chairman, in asking the House leadership, both the Republican leadership and the Democratic leadership, to please work on a comprehensive solution to the sequester in order that we can bring regular order and get the type of government that the American people deserve.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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