Democratic Infighting Kills FAA Bill

Posted May 6, 2008 at 3:18pm



Correction Appended

Falling prey to Democratic infighting, a bill to modernize the Federal Aviation Administration failed Tuesday afternoon to garner the 60 votes needed to cut off debate on the measure.

A vote on Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-W.Va.) substitute amendment failed, 49-42, by falling 11 votes short of meeting the 60-vote cloture requirement.

Originally, the FAA bill was thought to be noncontroversial, but it became bogged down in intraparty feuding among Democrats about how to pay for it and whether to attach unrelated provisions, such as money for the Highway Trust Fund.

On the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Rockefeller, whose Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee crafted the measure, attacked his colleagues for attempting to attach unrelated language to the bill. He criticized the fact that it was becoming difficult to approve legislation that would modernize the seriously outdated air traffic control system.

Rockefeller specifically blasted Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) for attaching unrelated items to the measure.

“Every Senator got 1,500 telephone calls, more from high-end jet users. I would never have presumed to think they contributed to their campaign but it is an idle thought that wandered through my mind,” Rockefeller said on the Senate floor.

Last week, Baucus was seen locking horns with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) over whether to include language in the measure that would force certain airline companies to pay billions of dollars into their employee pension funds.

The language eventually was stripped from the bill after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) broke the standoff.

The bill has been set aside for the near future.

Correction: May 6, 2008

An earlier version of the story misstated the fact that the cloture vote failed, instead reporting that it had succeeded.