posted on March 19, 2013 14:55
Alexandria, Va. - Late Monday evening, March 18, the U.S. Senate advanced a modified version of the House of Representatives' six-month spending bill known as the continuing resolution (CR), cutting off further debate. Unfortunately, Senator Jerry Moran's (R-Kan.) amendment to keep contract air traffic control towers open did not get a vote and there appears to be little chance of gaining a reprieve from the Senate on keeping these towers active and operational.
All HAI members are now strongly encouraged to focus attention on the House by contacting their elected members in Congress, asking them to support an amendment to keep the contract towers open. Contact information for House members may be found at www.house.gov.
As noted earlier this week in HAI's RotorNews, the FAA is briefly delaying its decision on which of the 189 contract towers up for potential closure may be exempted due to compelling national interest. HAI President Matt Zuccaro wrote to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta last week to express his grave concern over the impact the tower closures would have on helicopter operations, particularly flight training. HAI members should not assume that this issue will be resolved in good order and not have a tremendous impact upon aviation safety and flight training without legislative intervention.
After efforts to gain a vote on his bipartisan amendment failed, Senator Moran took to the U.S. Senate floor in frustration Monday evening, calling the FAA's tower shutdown a "dangerous game to play in trying to prove a point that we can't cut spending without putting at risk those who use air control towers." Moran told reporters he "did not have a good answer" for why his amendment did not get a vote.
A vote on the Senate CR to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year could come as early as today, March 19, and the House could take up the modified CR as early as Thursday, March 21. The Senate will have to resolve differences with the House, which has already passed its own version of a continuing resolution to extend the federal government's fudning through September 30 and avert a shutdown. Congress has until March 27 before the current stopgap fudning bill expires and a new one is required.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) declared on Monday that he will not be voting for the Senate's temporary funding bill when it comes up for a final vote, criticizing it for including "numerous examples of egregious pork-barrel projects" as well as spending never authorized by the appropriate committee or by the administration. Top oficials from the Commerce Department, the Department of Agriculture, and the Federal Communications Commission, and other federal agencies will appear on Capitol Hill today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to answer questions about claims the Obama administration has made regarding the impacts of the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester which went into effect on March 1.
HAI is closely monitoring legislative developments in both the House and Senate, and updates will be posted on the HAI website as developments unfold in Washington.