FAA REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - May 06, 2008)
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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I seek recognition to explain my vote against the motion to invoke cloture on the Rockefeller substitute amendment No. 4627 to H.R. 2881, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act.
There are many aviation-related provisions in the substitute amendment which are of critical importance to both the Nation and my State, including: $290 million per year to modernize the air traffic control system; a $15.8 billion authorization of funds for the Airport Improvement Program; a requirement that airlines post the on-time performance of chronically delayed flights on their Web sites; a $175 million authorization of funds for Essential Air Service, EAS, to rural areas; and an extension of EAS eligibility for Lancaster, PA; and safety improvements related to the FAA's oversight of aircraft inspections. The legislation also includes nonaviation provisions to restore the solvency of the highway trust fund, which is a matter of critical importance, and to provide tax credit bonds for high-speed rail service, a measure that I helped put together. For these and other reasons, I believe it is imperative that the Senate act on this bill.
However, I do not believe it would be appropriate to act on it without necessary and proper debate, and that is precisely what a vote for cloture on the substitute amendment would have represented. The Senate was precluded from having any meaningful or traditional debate on this legislation due to a decision to fill the so-called ``amendment tree'' so that no other amendments could be freely debated and considered. I filed two amendments to this bill, one attempting to address overscheduling of airline flights and one prohibiting unnecessary flights over residential areas, which I was precluded from offering. I believe my amendments address critically important issues that deserve the attention and consideration of the Senate, and I am told that other Senators hold similar sentiments with respect to amendments they intended to pursue.
On February 15, 2007, I introduced a resolution which would prohibit this abhorrent practice of filling the ``amendment tree'' so that the Senate can conduct its business. In the absence of this much-needed reform, I voted against cloture on the substitute amendment, not because I fail to recognize the importance of the provisions contained therein, but because the Senate was effectively blocked from offering and debating any amendments to improve it.
It is my hope that the chairman and ranking members of the relevant committees can work out an agreement that will allow this bill to come back before the Senate, and with it a process for its consideration that will allow for the kind of meaningful and traditional debate fitting of the Senate.