Videos & Speeches
I am here to speak on FAA Reauthorization and several things…have arisen in the last few days that are very discouraging to me and troublesome to a cause I care a lot about.
I am an advocate for general aviation, and I was pleased that the Senate was able to pass FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 by a vote of 95 to 3…this Senate approved legislation reauthorizing the FAA for the next 18 months. That’s an unusual occurrence around here when anything passes 95 to 3.
I also would indicate our committee vote – I am a member of the Commerce Committee – and the vote there was unanimous to report that bill to the Senate in a favorable recommendation, and again demonstrating overwhelmingly bipartisan support in regard to this aviation legislation.
Kansas is an aviation state. Wichita and South Central Kansas are known as the significant provider of airplanes – general aviation airplanes and parts. We have lots of subcontractors in that process. We are also a rural state. Wichita, in fact, is known as the Air Capital of the World. But in addition to the manufacturing sector, which is so important to our state’s economy, so important to our ability to compete globally, we’re a rural state, and airplanes and airports matter to us greatly.
So, while we care a lot about the manufacturing of general aviation airplanes, we also care a lot about airports and their ability to take care of flights coming in and out of small communities across our state and certainly across the country. That general aviation airport is a connection to the rest of the world, and it allows for medical expertise to be flown into a community in lifesaving efforts, but just on a more day-to-day basis, it allows for us to have access to customers, to suppliers, to clients because we have manufacturing and other businesses in rural communities across Kansas whose connection with their customer base and suppliers is through that airport. So in the absence of general aviation manufacturing, our state suffers greatly, but in the absence of general aviation airports, our state would suffer greatly as well.
What I am worried about is that the House has not acted in any positive way to the passage of this bill, and the deadline of July 15 is rapidly approaching. And what that would mean is if the House does not take up the Senate-passed version, the expectation – in fact, the stated circumstance is that the House would pass a short-term extension of the current FAA legislation and leave the Senate bill hanging.
Many of the folks in this Senate who have served longer than I have would recognize the history of this issue, in which one extension after another was required because consensus was never developed, and the leadership was not provided to resolve the differences over the years on FAA reauthorization. And the point I want to make by being on the Senate floor today and expressing my views to my colleagues is, do not allow us to get into this position again in which we would have a series of extensions of the FAA legislation.
We need the House to act on the Senate bill that’s pending in their committee, that is pending on the House side, and differences need to be resolved. At the moment, the House has not passed an FAA reauthorization bill. Time is short. July 15, the current law expires. And my plea to my colleagues in the House, where I formerly served, is take up the Senate bill, address the issues you want as Members of the House in representing your constituency, and send the bill back to us so we can conference this issue and have a more long-term reauthorization bill.
Certainty matters. Certainty matters to the manufacturers in Kansas. Certainty matters to the airports and the pilots who utilize those airports. And do not allow us, once more, to be in this circumstance of an extension one time after another and the uncertainty that that provides.
It is my view the bill that the Senate has approved in such an overwhelming fashion [should be passed by the House]…[it] would be a shame if the important reforms that are included in that bill were held up by the House, in large part because of a significant controversial proposal to privatize the national air traffic control system. It sharply divides Congress. Everything I have read and heard from – everything I’ve read publicly and everything I have heard from my friends and colleagues, former colleagues in the House, is there are not the necessary votes present to pass that provision in the House. And I, from my own experience here in the Senate, those votes don’t exist in the Senate Commerce Committee and they do not exist on the Senate floor.
So let’s not tie this bill up over a proposal that does not have the votes to pass, and let’s not lose the opportunity to take advantage of the reforms that were included in the Senate FAA Reauthorization bill. We should not consider what would be called a clean extension of the FAA, when the authorization under our bill is the same length. The House is talking about sending us an 18-month extension. The Senate bill passed as an 18-month extension. What would be missing is the reforms we have worked so hard to include after significant amounts of testimony, after a number of hearings and conversations within the Commerce Committee to make certain we were doing good work. Don’t let that opportunity pass us by.
So my point in having this, in this case, monologue – hopefully a dialogue with my colleagues on the Senate floor – is, first of all, make sure we stand firm. I am a Senator who would be opposed to a short-term, even 18-month extension, if it does not include the broad array of things the Senate has included in our bill.
And my message to my House colleagues and friends is: Don’t bog this process down in a way that makes it impossible for us to pass the reauthorization legislation to begin with. These are important issues that we ought not let be sidetracked by a proposal that remains dubious and with great concern. And as I said earlier, every indication that I know and see is that proposal would not receive support in the Senate or even in the House.
So my request once again is please – to the U.S. House of Representatives is – please take up the Senate bill, work it – work your will in that bill but send us something more than just a short-term extension that doesn’t include the important and necessary reforms and improvements that the Senate-passed bill does.
Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to have a conversation about this topic.