What: All Issues : Labor Rights : Rights of Public Employees : H.R. 2115. Fiscal 2004 FAA Reauthorization/Vote to Recommit to Committee a Conference Report Which Would Reauthorize Funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.
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H.R. 2115. Fiscal 2004 FAA Reauthorization/Vote to Recommit to Committee a Conference Report Which Would Reauthorize Funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.
house Roll Call 591     Oct 30, 2003
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Conservative

In June 2002, President Bush issued an executive order which reclassified air-traffic control operations at the nation's airports from an "inherently governmental" to a non-governmental function. The purpose of the reclassification was to privatize air traffic control operations (federal jobs which are classified as inherently governmental duties cannot be privatized). In an effort to codify Bush's executive order into permanent legislation, Republican leaders added the language of the executive order to a bill which would reauthorize federal spending for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). During House and Senate debate on the FAA reauthorization bill, Democrats (including Progressives) voiced strong opposition to privatizing air traffic control operations because, in their view, the privatization could undermine public safety. Progressives argued that private companies, which are primarily interested in maximizing profits, might utilize shortcuts or other cost-cutting devices that ultimately undermine the safety of airline passengers. Progressives also contended that the hiring practices and training programs conducted by private firms are inferior to those of the public sector. In the view of Progressives, public safety could be jeopardized if private firms hired poorly qualified and/or poorly trained air traffic controllers. In contrast to the potential lack of attention to public safety by private firms, Progressives noted that the federal government's hiring practices and training programs for potential air traffic controllers are widely perceived by those in the industry as incredibly rigorous. During the House and Senate debate on the FAA reauthorization bill, Democrats were able to amend both pieces of legislation in such a way as to prevent the privatization of air traffic control duties. The two bills were then sent to a conference committee to finalize the bill by reconciling the House and Senate versions of the legislation. When the legislation emerged from conference, however, the ban on privatizing air traffic control operations-which was contained in both the House and Senate versions-was not included in the conference report (a conference report is the final version of legislation). By its silence on the privatization issue, the conference report would effectively allow the Bush administration to privatize air traffic control operations. Democrats complained mightily that Republican leaders had violated congressional rules by excluding the privatization ban from the conference report (according to the rules of conference committee negotiations, provisions which are included in both the House and Senate versions of a bill must be included in the conference report; conferees, in other words, do not have the power to delete provisions which have been approved by both houses of Congress). On this vote, Democrats sought to recommit the conference report to committee based on their opposition to privatizing air traffic control operations (if successful, the motion to recommit is usually a deathblow to a piece of legislation). Conservatives voted against the motion to recommit based on their support for the FAA reauthorization bill. In their view, provisions in the FAA reauthorization bill would help stimulate the U.S. economy by expanding air service operations-and the demand for jobs in the aviation industry-around the country. On a perfectly party-line vote of 196-219, the motion to recommit was defeated and the FAA reauthorization conference report was brought to a final vote.

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