A Senate panel just moved forward legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration without attaching President Trump’s proposal to privatize air traffic control.
The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has voted to send the measure to the Senate floor, where lawmakers have expressed concern that the must-pass legislation may not go through before the FAA’s authority expires in August. Trump’s controversial plan likely would have made swift passage impossible.
“I had hoped we could get this [done] in the July work period. … That’s uncertain at this point,” panel chairman Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told reporters. “The number of days we have before August break is somewhat limited, and the things we have to do are time consuming.”
Under Trump’s plan, safety oversight authority would have been retained by the FAA, but a nonprofit corporation would control the country’s air navigation system, funded by user fees. Concerns from Democratic and some GOP congressman were raised regarding whether this gives too much power to a handful of aviation CEOs. Smaller airports and civilian aviators in particular may be unable to keep up with the potential rising costs to fly under such a system.
“Essentially you’re going to be privatizing the power to tax,” said Paul Hudson, member of an FAA advisory committee and president of passenger advocacy group FlyersRights.org.
Proponents of the plan, however, argued that transferring control to a private entity would streamline operations that are sometimes burdened by government bureaucracy, and free up the system to upgrade more quickly. They criticize the FAA as being tasked with regulating an agency that they also run.
Trump administration officials have yet to respond to this announcement as of this writing.
Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW