(Don’t) Stop Me If You’ve Heard This
Last issue, I began my column by remarking about my murky crystal ball and its ability to predict how Congress would vote on the looming air traffic control (ATC) privatization bill. Fast forward a few months — the crystal ball may still be hard to read, but I do like what I see.
In the face of this paradigm change to U.S. civil aviation, the general aviation (GA) community is united like never before. We now have nearly 200 GA organizations on record as opposing ATC privatization.
HAI and the GA associations here in Washington, D.C., continue to visit Capitol Hill offices, making it clear that we will fight ATC privatization until we win. Some big names in the aviation community heard our story and have joined us in the fight. People like Capt. Jim Lovell, Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger, Gen. “Fig” Newton, Sean Tucker, and others have stepped up and added their voice to ours.
And let’s not forget you. You added your voice to the collective voice of all GA, and we have been heard on Capitol Hill. Believe me, if we hadn’t spoken out about this bill, it would already be the law of the land.
Is it time to take a celebratory swig of Diet Pepsi and devour that large helping of Ghirardelli brownie? No, keep those wild parties at bay a little longer. We still have work to do.
It’s Not Crying Wolf If There’s One at the Door
Let’s dive a little deeper into where things stand. As we previously reported in ROTOR Daily, at the end of September Congress was faced with a pressing deadline to pass an FAA reauthorization bill. The FAA’s taxing authority was set to expire on September 30. By the end of the month, with both the House and Senate FAA reauthorization bills in limbo, Congress took steps to pass a six-month extension. President Trump dutifully signed that extension, and we collectively kicked the can down the road to March 31, 2018.
I’m sure by now you are sick and tired of hearing about ATC privatization. Since I joined HAI just nine short months ago, it has pretty much been my singular focus. Not a single column, report, or email goes out without my predictable plea for HAI members to contact their elected officials and state their opposition to ATC privatization.
If you are tired of these messages, think of those Hill staffers who hear from me and the other GA trade associations every day. Or my poor wife — the words “ATC privatization” are banned from the house.
It is understandable if HAI members view our reporting and appeal to action as repeated cries of “Wolf!” However, the moment you let down your guard, that wolf will bite. ATC proponents are smart and dedicated to their cause. They will take advantage of every tool they have to pass this legislation. It is important that we tell Capitol Hill that the GA community is paying attention.
If you are asking yourself how did we end up here, then blame the Founding Fathers. We live in a democracy, and democracies are messy. The legislative process is sausage-making at best.
ATC privatization is backed by the administration, a strong and skilled committee chairman, and backers with deep pockets. They have the right to voice their support for this policy and push for its enactment — just as we have the right to oppose it. If we were in North Korea, we would not have this drawn-out legislative contest. But then, if we lived there, ATC privatization would not be one of our most pressing concerns.
Each time our legislative duel over ATC privatization recommences, our requests to you become louder — because if you don’t show up for a fight, you forfeit and lose. We have called the membership to action each time proponents have attempted a vote. Each time, HAI members, along with the rest of the GA community, answered those calls to action. As a result, the vote has been consistently pushed back.
Two Reasons to Avoid a House Vote
In the last issue of ROTOR, we discussed why ATC privatization was bad policy for GA. In this column, I want to explain why this House vote is so important. It is readily acknowledged that the Senate has little appetite to take on ATC privatization. So if the Senate won’t vote for privatization, why are we working so hard to avoid this House vote? Our goal-line defense is important for two reasons.
First, precedence. Congress (and the U.S. legal system) is built on precedence. While this bill has passed out of the committee of jurisdiction, it has never passed either the House or the Senate. That is a strong historical record that highlights GA’s decades-long, unwavering opposition to ATC privatization, as well as a lack of support for it in either chamber.
Second, conference. If you remember Schoolhouse Rock!, you will recall that if the House and Senate pass a different version of the same bill, they go to conference to resolve the differences. Conferences are where deals are cut, and politics is at its best. When both sides come to the table to deal, things can become unpredictable. If the House passes a pro-privatization FAA reauthorization bill and the Senate passes one that keeps ATC with the FAA, we still have a big problem.
To prevent that situation, we need to ensure that the House does not pass a version of the FAA reauthorization that contains ATC privatization. Plain and simple.
Say No to ATC Privatization
So smile when you see another email from us asking you to contact your elected officials. Stand with your GA family, and let your voice be heard. Invite your colleagues to reach out as well.
Text ROTOR to 40649 and you can then directly email, tweet, and Facebook message your elected officials. Your voice matters and your voice has an impact. The fact that this bill, which was introduced June 22, has not yet made it to the House floor shows the power of our united voice.
Keep those brownies in the oven a little longer, and soon enough, we’ll all enjoy some Ghirardelli and ice-cold Diet Pepsi, along with the satisfaction of preserving the world’s safest ATC system. Reach out to Congress today!
Cade Clark is HAI’s vice president of government affairs. Cade can be reached at email@example.com.