It has become quite clear that Rep. Chip Cravaack has no problem with eliminating passenger air service to Range Regional Airport, International Falls and hundreds of other rural airports around the United States. But it is rather surprising that Cravaack is so determined to gut the Essential Air Services (EAS) program that he voted with his fellow Tea Party members to shut down the FAA.
We reported earlier that Cravaack co-sponsored the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 which repeals the EAS Program, except in Alaska and Hawaii, on October 1, 2013. It also makes cuts to the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that small airports rely on to make improvements to infrastructure and to address safety and security needs. The bill passed the House on April 1 by a vote of 223 -196, the narrowest margin for an FAA reauthorization bill in 30 years.
Fortunately, funding for the programs remained intact in the Senate bill and the Senate refused to concur with the House language.
With the current authorization set to expire at midnight on Friday, July 22, passage of an extension of funding for the FAA was required in order to keep the agency running.
The Aerospace Industries Association sent a letter urging Congress to pass a reauthorization extension:
… Failure to extend authorization would have dire operational and economic consequences. Among the immediate impacts to FAA are:
Lost revenue to the Trust Fund of approximately $200 million per week
The furlough of about 4,000 non-essential FAA employees not funded through the operations account
Delays in implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System, which a recent Deloitte report says will generate $29 billion per year in U.S. economic benefits and eliminate 29 million metric tons of carbon emissions when the system is fully implemented
In addition, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
… the government will lose about $200 million a week in airline ticket taxes and $2.5 billion in airport construction projects will come to a halt if the Federal Aviation Administration is forced to shut down.
On Wednesday, the House extension (H.R. 2553) came up for debate. Because the Senate indicated that they would not accept the House language, Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), ranking member on the aviation subcommittee, introduced a motion to recommit (send back to committee). Chip Cravaack spoke against the motion and urged passage of the extension, which was opposed by organized labor.
Cravaack, with the assistance of his Tea Party co-horts, succeeded in voting down the motion and passed the bill, sealing the fate of the FAA and that of thousands of workers who will lose their source of income.