(Senate - April 25, 2013)

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[Pages S3059-S3060]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                   REDUCING FLIGHT DELAYS ACT OF 2013

  Mr. REID. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate 
proceed to S. 853, introduced earlier today.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the bill by title.
  The bill clerk read as follows:

       A bill (S. 853) to provide the Secretary of Transportation 
     with the flexibility to transfer certain funds to prevent 
     reduced operations and staffing of the Federal Aviation 
     Administration, and for other purposes.

  There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the bill.
  Mr. REID. Before we hear from my friend from Maine, I appreciate very 
much her tenacity, her diligence, and that of Senator Rockefeller and 
others. This is something that has been difficult, but I think it is 
the right thing to do. Hopefully when we get back, we can have 
something broader in scope than just this.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maine.
  Ms. COLLINS. Madam President, I am delighted that the Senate will 
pass a bipartisan bill to resolve a serious problem confronting the 
American traveling public and our economy. I thank the majority leader, 
Senator Reid, the minority leader, the Republican leader, Senator 
McConnell, and all the staff who have worked so hard to make this 
  I am very pleased to be joined in sponsoring this bill by many of our 
colleagues, including Senator Rockefeller, Senator Thune, Senator Mark 
Udall, Senator Risch, Senator Roberts, Senator Isakson, Senator 
McCaskill, Senator Hagan, the Presiding Officer, Senator Toomey, 
Senator Chambliss, Senator Murkowski, Senator Warner, Senator Begich, 
Senator Nelson, and Senator Heller.
  As the ranking member of the Appropriations Transportation 
Subcommittee, I have been very concerned about the serious delays that 
have been caused by the FAA furloughs of air traffic controllers. In 
fact, Secretary of Transportation LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta 
met with me this morning to discuss this problem and our proposed 
  The Collins-Rockefeller-Thune-Udall bill would restore the funding 
for these essential air traffic controller positions, and that should 
prevent the onerous delays that were occurring and were only going to 
get worse as the traveling season reached its peak this summer. That 
would have had a ripple effect throughout the hospitality industry in 
particular and caused job losses that we can ill afford.
  I just wish to point out that there literally have been thousands of 
flights delayed since the furloughs went into effect, and I am so happy 
we were able to work together across the aisle in a bipartisan way to 
resolve this problem.
  The FAA recently began furloughing 47,000 employees this past Sunday, 
which includes nearly 15,000 air traffic controllers. This is 
essentially 10 percent of its workforce, which equates to one furlough 
day per bi-weekly pay period, for a maximum of 11 days through 
September 30th.
  The challenges the FAA faces this fiscal year are daunting; not only 
is the agency operating under a continuing resolution but sequestration 
compounds the problem. It is important that sequestration is 
implemented in a way that ensures safety and minimizes the impact on 
the traveling public as well as jobs in the hospitality and airline 
industries. FAA recently announced its plans to achieve savings by 
implementing furloughs of air traffic controllers.
  These cuts have already caused widespread delays to the air 
transportation system and were expected to get worse. It is estimated 
that as many as 6,700 flights would be delayed each day, more than 
double the worst day of flight delays last year. This reduction in 
staffing of air traffic controllers has been the primary cause of one 
out of every three delays since the furloughs began.
  In fact, on Monday alone, there were 2,660 delays, of which 1,200 
were due to the furloughs, and 2,000 delays on Tuesday, of which 1,025 
due to the reduced staff. What was even more troubling is that soon we 
will be approaching the summer peak travel season. Some airports may 
experience delays of up to three hours during peak travel times.
  The FAA acknowledges that these service reductions will adversely 
affect commercial, corporate, and general aviation operators. The FAA 
expects that as airlines estimate the potential impacts of these 
furloughs, they will be forced to change their schedules, cancel 
flights, and lay off employees.
  Our bill, The Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013, would provide the 
Secretary of Transportation the flexibility to transfer certain funds 
to prevent furloughs of essential employees at the FAA. It would give 
the Secretary the authority to transfer an amount not to exceed $253 
million to prevent essential employees at the FAA, such as air traffic 
controllers, from being furloughed in order to reduce flight delays 
while maintaining a safe and efficient national airspace system.
  My bill would accomplish this goal by allowing a one-time shift of 
unused monies in the Airport Improvement Program to Operations. I first 
raised the idea of using AIP carryover balances as a solution at the 
policy lunch on Tuesday, and many of my colleagues indicated interest 
in this approach. Our bill has been vetted by the General Counsel 
offices at both the FAA and the Secretary's office. Secretary LaHood 
told me this morning that it is an effective, workable solution.
  The transfer would come largely from carryover balances within the 
Airport Improvement Program (AIP). To be clear: this is the 
discretionary portion of the program and in no way affects the 
entitlement funds airports are guaranteed to receive. The program has 
sufficient funding to support this effort. Historically, AIP carryover 
balances range between $400-450 million and has not been below $300 
million in the last decade. In fact, last year there was approximately 
$700 million of these carryover balances.
  Over the past several years, the aviation industry has faced tough 
economic hardships. I recognize that aviation plays a critical role in 
driving economic growth, jobs and investment across the country. The 
Airport Improvement Program is a very important program which supports 
infrastructure at our nation's airports.
  This bill should be recognized as a one-time solution in order to 
avert the serious national impacts that have resulted from the 
decisions made by the FAA.
  I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I am grateful to both 
the Majority and Minority Leaders.
  I thank them for their cooperation in making this happen. It is nice 
to know that when we work together, we really can solve problems.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.
  Mr. REID. Madam President, we were able to accomplish two very 
important things this week. One is the final passage of the Internet 
tax issue, but that is because it was a bipartisan issue, and we were 
able to get this done.
  Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the bill be read three 
times and passed and that the motion to reconsider be laid upon the 
table, with no intervening action or debate.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The bill (S. 853) was ordered to be engrossed for a third reading, 
was read a third time, and passed, as follows:

                                 S. 853

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Reducing Flight Delays Act 
     of 2013''.


       (a) In General.--Notwithstanding division G of the 
     Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 
     (Public Law 113-6), any other provision of law, or a 
     sequestration order issued or to be issued by the President 
     pursuant to section 251A(7)(A) of the Balanced Budget and 
     Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (2 U.S.C. 901a(7)(A)), 
     the Secretary of Transportation may transfer during fiscal 
     year 2013 an amount equal to the amount specified in 
     subsection (c) to the appropriations account providing for 
     the operations of the Federal Aviation Administration, for 
     any activity or activities funded by that account, from--
       (1) the amount made available for obligation in that fiscal 
     year as discretionary grants-in-aid for airports pursuant to 
     section 47117(f) of title 49, United States Code; or
       (2) any other program or account of the Federal Aviation 

[[Page S3060]]

       (b) Availability and Obligation of Transferred Amounts.--An 
     amount transferred under subsection (a)(1) shall--
       (1) be available immediately for obligation and expenditure 
     as directly appropriated budget authority; and
       (2) be deemed as obligated for grants-in-aid for airports 
     under part B of subtitle VII of title 49, United States Code, 
     for purposes of complying with the limitation on incurring 
     obligations during that fiscal year under the heading 
     ``Grants-in-Aid for Airports'' under title I of the 
     Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related 
     Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012 (division C of Public Law 
     112-55; 125 Stat. 647), and made applicable to fiscal year 
     2013 by division F of the Consolidated and Further Continuing 
     Appropriations Act, 2013 (Public Law 113-6).
       (c) Amount Specified.--The amount specified in this 
     subsection is the amount, not to exceed $253,000,000, that 
     the Secretary of Transportation determines to be necessary to 
     prevent reduced operations and staffing of the Federal 
     Aviation Administration during fiscal year 2013 to ensure a 
     safe and efficient air transportation system; and Provided 
     that none of the funds transferred under this subsection may 
     be obligated unless the Secretary notifies the Committees on 
     Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate 
     at least 5 days in advance of such transfer.
  Mr. REID. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that if the Senate 
receives a bill from the House and the text of that bill is identical 
to S. 853, the bill then be considered read three times and passed and 
the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.