Congress passes FAA bill

By Corene Brisendine

Congress has passed a law giving the Federal Aviation Administration the ability to transfer money into the contract tower fund, which should end the air-traffic controller furloughs and keep the 149 towers slated for closure to remain open through September.

The Senate unaminously passed the bill late Thursday and the House approved it early Friday morning.

“While I believe the White House already had the flexibility they needed to avoid this situation, the bill passed tonight unequivocally directs the FAA to solve this problem and find savings elsewhere in their budget rather than target air traffic controllers for furloughs,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. “The bill’s language provides the FAA with more than enough funding flexibility to protect the 149 contract control towers slated for closure as well.”

The Associated Press reported that the legislation gives the Federal Aviation Administration the power to transfer up to $253 million from other programs to “prevent reduced operations and staffing” through the end of the fiscal year.

The Protect Our Skies Act championed by Moran and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would take the measure one step further by restricting the Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA, from cutting funding for air traffic controllers and tower funding through September 2014.

The National Air Transportation Association said it supported Congress’ quick action, and said it would continue to lobby Congress in an attempt to keep the air traffic controllers and the towers funded indefinitely.

Moran also reiterated his desire to have an open debate on sequestration and how to make “common sense” cuts to the budget that would not “put American lives in jeopardy.”

“The White House played a dangerous game by using flight delays and the closing of control towers as political strategy,” he said. “If the Obama administration wants to make the political point that Washington cannot cut spending without disastrous consequences, let’s have the debate. But they must stop putting politics before common sense.”

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