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House Republicans' Unwillingness to Put Safety over Political Ideology Apparent in House Passage of FAA Bill - (10/30/2003)

CONTACT: Doug Church

NATCA President Says Lessons of NASA Putting Profits over Safety Have Been Lost

WASHINGTON – It’s been 98 days since a Congressional conference committee began desecrating the legislative process under cloak of darkness by destroying an air traffic control privatization ban unanimously passed by both the House and Senate. Today, House Republicans continued to undermine the will of the public with a vote that leaves the world’s safest air traffic control system vulnerable to privatization.

“Many months ago our members of Congress talked with great eloquence about how putting profits before safety nearly ruined our nation’s space system,” said John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “Today, a narrow majority proved that their words weren’t quite sincere. Let’s hope that Congress ten years from now is not making the same statement regarding air traffic control. Sadly, I fear today’s action may put us on that track. House Republicans simply have failed to heed the lessons of mission control when it comes to air traffic control.”

“It is a shame that after much arm-twisting, some Republicans reversed their earlier vote to specifically prohibit privatization of our skies,” Carr said after the House voted to approve a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that jeopardizes air safety. “They seemed to forget that the House voted 418-8 to ban privatization and 94-0 in the Senate. Democracy has taken a big hit. What’s the point of a checks and balances system of government if the overwhelming will of both houses of Congress can get tossed aside like yesterday’s trash? “

NATCA remains steadfastly opposed to the new conference report because not only does it offer the air traffic control system no protection from privatization, it expressly grants that power to the FAA in an obscure section (105) of the bill. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey clearly stated in calls to dozens of reporters on Tuesday that the agency has the power to privatize air traffic control towers today – with or without legislation granting such authority. A privatization ban, therefore, is needed.

“Anyone who still believes Administrator Blakey when she says that the FAA has no plans to privatize has had the wool pulled over their eyes,” Carr stated. “This agency is holding up a critical, $60 billion bill to protect their ability to do something they say they don’t want to do. It’s sheer lunacy.”

Carr concluded: “We applaud the bravery of those House Republicans who did stand strong for safety in the face of overwhelming pressure. Now we look to the Senate and ask them to show their courage as well to protect the safety of the skies and continue to oppose this or any bill that does not prohibit the FAA from selling the world’s safest and best air traffic control system to the lowest bidder.”

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