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Democrats Twisted the Debate Over FAA

The Daytona Beach News-Journal

August 9, 2011

By U.S. Rep. John Mica

The Washington Post's commentary put an interesting liberal slant on an interview conducted with me on the eve of Senate Democrats ending their two-week partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The writer mischaracterized my measured comments and decision to avoid personal vitriolic attacks, such as those Senate Democrats recently launched against me and other House Republicans, and came to a twisted conclusion that I was a "beaten man."
In response to being asked if I was surprised by the magnitude of the reaction to the FAA extension that I had sent to the U.S. Senate, my answer was "yes."

Who would have ventured to guess that Senate Democrats would have partially closed down the FAA for two weeks and, as the Post column correctly reports, demagogue the issue? What the writer failed to mention is that the leverage language included in the House extension was not to end rural air service subsidies, but to stop the federal underwriting of passenger tickets at three airports where taxpayers shell out from $1,350 to over $3,700 per ticket.

The only other language in the extension I offered was the exact wording of a provision passed in February by the U.S. Senate, which targeted 10 airports with existing subsidized air service located within 90 miles of a large or medium hub airport. In fact, the extension did not address or even mention other pending issues, including levels of FAA funding, slots at Reagan National Airport, labor issues, or any subject besides pork subsidies for a federal program that has grown from $30 million to almost a quarter of a billion dollars annually. (I would note that Daytona Beach International Airport receives no subsidies from this program.)

Yes, after four and a half years and 20 short-term extensions, I decided to use every means of cooperation and leverage to move the stalled but important long-term FAA bill forward.

Yes, I am disappointed it was more important for these senators to try to score political points and blame me and Republicans for the FAA shutdown, even though the House passed a bipartisan FAA extension on July 20. In fact, for two weeks, the Senate did nothing but complain about the process and the simple legislation sent to them by the House, which included just the few modest subsidy cuts.

In the end, these senators agreed to pass the House extension, and now, kicking dirt in the taxpayers' faces, will ask Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to ignore the cost savings efforts in the bill and protect their pork.

Unfortunately, the American people have witnessed firsthand during this minor difference of opinion -- blown up into a crisis by Senate Democrats -- how truly difficult it is to bring about even modest reforms and cut wasteful programs in Washington.

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