Take A Whiff... You Can Smell The Political
didn't take very long. The Senate's bill to reauthorize
funding for the FAA stalled in debate Wednesday, after lawmakers
clashed on a proposal to more tightly regulate pension funding
rules for airlines.
Lawmakers in favor of the plan -- which would regulate the
system by which airlines would calculate pensions, so carriers
couldn't deliberately undervalue contributions -- were met with
swift opposition from senators with close ties to American Airlines
and Continental Airlines, reports Reuters.
Those carriers opposed a 2006 overhaul of pension rules, which
allowed carriers in bankruptcy extra help in restructuring their
pension plans; In 2007, American and Continental -- which avoided
entering Chapter 11 -- were granted permission to restructure their
plans in similar fashion, which in turn reduced the amount of
funding those airlines were required to contribute.
By Wednesday night, the proposal to end that loophole was
dropped... and attention turned to a slew of unrelated riders
lawmakers attempted to attach to the bill, including a boost to
highway spending (keep in mind we're talking about a bill to
fund the Federal Aviation
Administration here -- Ed.)
The partisan bickering aggravated Montana Senator Max Baucus,
chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "We've been spending all
afternoon here doing nothing," Baucus said.
As ANN reported, the Senate
FAA reauthorization plan, S.1300, had been stalled in committee
since last September... until a compromise between Baucus and
Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) broke the logjam, and permitted the
bill to reach the Senate floor Monday.
That compromise stripped a $25-per-trip-leg user fee on turbine
aircraft filing IFR flight plans -- a provision favored by
Rockefeller -- in exchange for higher taxes on fuel for corporate
Rockefeller wasn't thrilled to see the compromise plan hit the
partisan wall, either. "I've heard almost no conversation today and
virtually none yesterday about the perilous condition of our
aviation industry," Rockefeller said Wednesday.
The Senate adjourned until Friday... which all-but guarantees
the bill won't come to a vote this week. Or, to look at the
situation in a "glass-half-full" manner: if senators aren't
debating the bill... they can't screw it up, either.