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Mr. COSTELLO. Mr. Speaker, I thank the ranking member of the full committee, Mr. Rahall. Let me thank him not only for his friendship and his kind words but for his leadership on the committee on so many issues.
As the chairman pointed out, we were in a markup until almost 3 a.m. this morning, and Mr. Rahall led us on our side of the aisle in working together to try and come up with a better product than was presented to us last night. So I thank him.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the conference report. I want to say from the outset that I'm deeply disappointed in the change to the Railway Labor Act that was added to the conference report during final negotiations on the National Mediation Board provision between Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid. The NMB language had been dropped altogether, as Mr. Rahall indicated in his statement. Congress should not be amending the Railway Labor Act in this bill. Importantly, there are several provisions in the conference report that help organized labor, and after working on this legislation for over 5 years, I believe it's necessary to move forward and enact a multiyear reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.
However, I want to be clear: I join the ranking member, Mr. Rahall, and many others, that if the Railway Labor Act change proves to have a significant impact--negative impact--on the right to organize, we must come back and revisit this issue.
One of my highest priorities in the FAA reauthorization bill has been and is fair bargaining rights for employees at the FAA. After leading the fight for many years, I am pleased that the conference report establishes a process for mediation and binding arbitration of impasses between the FAA and its unions.
As Chairman Petri indicated, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act provides $63 billion dollars for FAA infrastructure programs, operations, and research over the 4-year period of the bill. I wanted to see higher funding levels and a passenger facility charge increase for job-creating airport infrastructure projects. However, the funding levels in this conference report are an improvement over the 2008 levels originally proposed in the House-passed bill. They are roughly level with the current year's appropriation.
The conference report also includes a number of safety provisions in the FAA reauthorization bill that we had in previous Congresses, such as a stronger requirement for maintenance work performed on U.S. commercial airlines by outside contractors. It also requires the FAA to assess the appropriate staff levels for air traffic controllers, FAA managers, and aviation safety inspectors.
In addition, the conference report takes important steps to advance the next generation air traffic control system that is desperately needed not only by the industry and for the flying public but by the country as a whole. We create a new chief NextGen officer who will serve as the primary point of contact for NextGen implementation at the FAA to provide accountability and stability, and require reporting metrics to ensure that NextGen is making progress.
Further, it would require the FAA to work closely with affected unions in the planning, development, and deployment of NextGen. I wrote this provision in the bill 4 years ago, and I'm glad to see that it will be enacted into law in this conference report.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, despite the flaws that we talked about in the bill, we desperately need a long-term FAA reauthorization bill, and that's why I'm supporting this bill.
I thank the ranking member, Mr. Rahall, Chairman Mica, Chairman Petri, and other committee members for all of their hard work on this legislation, and I thank the staff on both sides of the aisle, who have worked very hard over the past 5 years to try and bring us to the point where we are today to get a bill on the President's desk.
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