AMENDING TITLE 49, UNITED STATES CODE
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, H.R. 5449 changes the rules under which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) negotiates with Federal employees unions, such as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), to make the FAA abide by the exact same process that other government agencies do when they negotiate with Federal employees unions. Contrary to the claims of its opponents, H.R. 5449 does not allow NATCA to indefinitely prolong negotiations. H.R. 5449 allows the FAA to act to end negotiations and bring their case before a Federal mediation board who has power to resolve the dispute. H.R. 5449 would prevent the FAA from unilaterally imposing a contract on the air traffic controllers. In contrast, the current system may provide the FAA with the opportunity to drag out negotiations, so it can ultimately declare an impasse and impose a contract. Thus, the changes made in H.R. 5449 seem reasonable.
Some people, including many House of Representatives members with whom I usually agree, are claiming that H.R. 5449 will cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. This claim is based on an assumption that the final result of the mediation process established by H.R. 5449 will be significantly more costly to the taxpayer then the contract the FAA will impose on the controllers if H.R. 5449 fails to pass. However, under H.R. 5449, the dispute will be resolved by a Federal mediation panel whose members are appointed by the president. I am skeptical that a presidentially appointed mediation board will give an exorbitant package to NATCA, especially since the difference between the FAA's current proposal and the NATCA's last offer is less than a billion dollars. It is true that a future mediation panel may be populated by people appointed by an administration more friendly to the air traffic controllers than the current administration, but it is also possible that a future Congress would use its leverage in the current process to force the FAA to accept contracts tilted in favor of the NATCA. We should not judge procedural issues based on uncertain predictions about results.
Some opponents of H.R. 5449 complain that the air traffic controllers are overpaid. However, since the air traffic control system is government controlled and government financed, the wages of air traffic controllers are not set by the market. Instead, these wages are set by political and bureaucratic fiat. Absent a market, it is imposable to say the air traffic controllers' wages are too high or too low. In fact, given the importance of air traffic control, it is possible that, in a free market, some air traffic controllers may have higher incomes than they do now. One thing I can say for sure is that air traffic controllers would still have their jobs if the Federal government were limited to its constitutional functions since air traffic controllers perform a function that would be necessary in a free market.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, H.R. 5449 reasonably changes the process under which the FAA negotiates with Federal employees unions. H.R. 5449 does not favor one party over another, and, contrary to the claims of its opponents, H.R. 5449 does not preordain the conclusion of the negotiations between the FAA and NATCA.