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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • Federal Aviation Administration Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2013-10-09

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    JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak about H.J. Res. 90, the so-called ``Flight Safety Act,'' which provides limited and insufficient funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, and is test gimmick of the Tea Party dominated Republican majority to extricate themselves from the fiasco they created when they voted to shut down the government.

    I am a senior member of the Homeland Security. I chaired the Transportation Security Subcommittee in the 111th Congress and was its Ranking Member in the last Congress. I represent Houston, which is home to one of the nation's busiest and most important airports. So I know the importance of the air transit industry to our economy. And I know that the health of the air transit industry depends upon security of air travel. I support robust funding for the FAA. I support robust funding for TSA. I support and worked to secure increased funding to modernize airport runways, reduce noise, increase the number of air marshals, and to develop NextGen.

    NextGen is the name given to the new airspace system to be phased in between 2012 and 2025. NextGen will transform America's air traffic control system from an aging ground-based system to a satellite-based system that shortened routes, save time and fuel, reduce traffic delays, increase capacity, and permit controllers to monitor and manage aircraft with greater safety margins. So while I take a back seat to no one in my support for a modern and secure air transportation system, the bill before us is the wrong way for this House to deal with the pressing budgetary priorities of the nation.

    Mr. Speaker, I call upon our Republican colleagues to abandon their current strategy of wasting valuable floor time bring miniCRs to the floor. They know the Senate will not accept them and the President will veto them. This strategy will not reopen the government they voted to shut down.

    There are the votes in this House to pass the clean CR from the Senate and send it to the President today. That will reopen the government today. And that is what we should do. Every day we delay passing a clean CR is another day of unneccessary pain and hardship and burden inflicted on the American people.

    People like Ramon Encarnacion of Texas, whose 11-year-old son doesn't understand why his father, an FAA aviation safety inspector, was able to greet him when he got home from school this week. ``When he came home and saw me here and not working, Mr. Encarnacion said `But you're always at work.' '' Mr. Encarnacion worked for 25 years at American Airlines without ever being furloughed and he never thought he would be out of work when he took a job at the Federal Aviation Administration as a safety inspector last year. But with the government shutdown, Mr. Encarnacion and hundreds of other Texas employees who work for the FAA are getting an unplanned and unpaid leave of absence.

    Mr. Speaker, there is much more to the nation's transportation system and infrastructure than the small portion of FAA safety inspectors funded by this piece-meal mini-CR.

    The shutdown of the government has crippled many of the safety enforcement and grant-making functions of the Federal Transit Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

    This mini-CR does not end the adverse effects that the government shutdown has had on other transportation safety and infrastructure investments. As long as House Republicans abandon their shutdown strategy: The Federal Transit Administration cannot process or award operating and capital grants to roughly 1,300 transit agencies.

    The FTA cannot fund or review major transit capital projects which create construction jobs and relieve congested areas. And FTA cannot implement its authorized safety oversight responsibilities provided in MAP-21. FTA cannot perform these critical functions because more than 9 in 10 (94 percent) of its employees have been furloughed.

    There are no funds in this mini-CR for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration so the agency has had to: Suspend investigations into safety defects in vehicles; halt all vehicle safety enforcement, research, data analysis, and consumer testing programs; Delay compliance testing of vehicles and equipment; and Defer safety research on crash avoidance technologies, occupant protection and alcohol detection.

    Since there are no funds for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in this bill, the agency lacks funds to conduct pipeline and hazardous materials safety inspections or to award pipeline safety grants to state and local governments.

    The National Transportation Safety Board has had to furlough 95 percent of employees and suspend investigations into new crashes and incidents.

    [[Page H6439]] The same is true for the Federal Railroad Administration, which has no funds for FRA safety inspectors and has furloughed more than half of its employees.

    Mr. Speaker, the lack of funding for the Maritime Administration has resulted in the shutdown of the United States Merchant Marine Academy and a suspension of the Maritime Security Program, which ships cargo to support our national defense efforts overseas.

    Finally, Mr. Speaker, this mini-CR claims funds portions of the Transportation Security Administration but it provides no funds for commercial aviation screening or Federal Flight Deck Officer Training or Federal Air Marshals travel and training.

    Democrats are and have been willing to negotiate over honest differences--but not before House Republican vote to open the government and remove the threat of government default.

    Mr. Speaker, people are hurting. Our economy is suffering. The shutdown has cost our economy $8.5 billion in lost productivity already and that number increases by $1.5 billion everyday.

    Mr. Speaker, it is time to end the madness. Let the House vote today on H.J. Res. 59, as passed by the Senate and reopen our government and put our people back to work.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. All time for debate has expired.

    Pursuant to House Resolution 373, the previous question is ordered.

    The question is on the engrossment and third reading of the joint resolution.

    The joint resolution was ordered to be engrossed and read a third time, and was read the third time.

    Motion to Recommit Ms. ESTY. Mr. Speaker, I have a motion to recommit at the desk.

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