DON'T PRIVATIZE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 154
(House of Representatives - September 26, 2017)

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[Pages H7489-H7490]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Oregon (Mr. DeFazio) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, yesterday, a temporary extension of the 
absolutely crucial Federal Aviation Administration--which runs our air 
traffic control system in the United States of America; the largest, 
most complex, and safest system in the world--failed. It actually will 
expire on October 1. That means that the source of funding for air 
traffic goes away and air traffic controllers may be working without 
  Now, why are we here?
  We are here because the chairman of the committee insists that we 
must privatize the air traffic control of the United States, the 
largest, most complex, safest, most advanced system in the world, to 
make it even better. Unfortunately, he does not enjoy support adequate 
to get this bill through. He delayed the bill in the last Congress 
because he didn't have the votes, and the bill has been delayed 
multiple times in this Congress. It has bipartisan opposition, and the 
Senate isn't even thinking about this.
  Now, why are we here?
  Well, the airlines have this fake group they call the Citizens for On 
Time Flights. And they say we have to fly old zigzag patterns across 
the United States with World War II radar. Well, that would be really 
bad if it were true. However, it is a lie.
  In fact, we have direct routes, performance-based navigation. 
Actually, the government has built and deployed a functional system 
where we can fly every plane in America by GPS. But the airlines 
haven't wanted to make the investment in their planes. So, actually, 
they are making a case against themselves.
  Why aren't we using the system more efficiently?
  Because they have failed to purchase the equipment to fly planes 
closer together. If every plane doesn't have GPS, we can't fly them 
closer together because the air traffic controllers won't know exactly 
where they are.
  Now, they say: Well, if we get to run the system, it will be more 
efficient. It is ATC that is the problem.
  Well, here is June: In June, actually, airline operations, 
overscheduling, crew dispatch, mechanicals, the host of things that 
they have, caused 46 percent of the delays.
  And then they go on to say: Well, this is horrible, these delays. It 
costs Americans $20 billion a year.
  If that is true, then the airlines are costing American consumers 
$11.5 billion a year because they themselves won't clean up their acts.
  Again, they go on about ATO. How many times have their dispatch and 
reservation systems crashed in the last 5 years?
  Dozens of times, stranding millions of people.
  How many times has the entire ATC in the United States of America 
gone down?
  Zero. Zero times.
  So we should let them run it? They will run it better, just like 
their computer reservation and their dispatch systems?
  Come on. There is really just a very simple agenda here. We finance 
the current Air Traffic Organization with a 7.5 percent tax on every 
ticket--a progressive tax. The more expensive your ticket, the more you 
pay. That pays for about 75 percent of the system today.
  The bill that the chairman wants to push will repeal the ticket tax. 
Airlines will raise prices 7.5 percent. So everybody will still pay the 
same amount for their tickets.
  How do I know that?
  Because this tax temporarily lapsed 5 years ago and every airline in 
America, except for Spirit and Alaska, immediately raised ticket prices 
7.5 percent.
  So then how are we going to pay for the system?
  Well, actually, they are going to impose a new head tax. That is 
right. You get on the plane and you will pay a new head tax to use the 
airspace of the United States of America.
  Now, that, of course, is a flat fee. So if you have a $100 ticket, 25 
percent tax, $25 to sit in that seat. If you have a $3,000 ticket, 
well, you are going to pay a tiny fraction. It won't bother you very 
much at all. So we are going to go from a fair, progressive tax that 
finances the system to a flat head tax.

[[Page H7490]]

  The airlines get a $10 billion windfall. And guess what. Your elected 
Representative will have nothing to say about it. The people on the 
Ways and Means Committee, the Republicans here, have decided that the 
airlines will have a vote on the new user fee. Yes, they will. They 
have a designated seat on the board of the new private corporation, so 
they will vote on the user fee. Your elected Representative does not 
have a vote, does not have review capability. It is entirely removed 
from the jurisdiction of the United States Congress. This is absolutely 
  I mean, a campaign based on lies. We have a report from the 
Government Accountability Office saying, in fact, if we privatize, it 
will delay things in terms of implementing the new system and make it 
more expensive.
  I happen to have the draft report. It was censored by political 
people in the Bush administration. So the final report just kind of 
waters down those conclusions. But they are still in there, and I am 
happy to make the draft report available to anybody who wants to know 
honestly what is going on around here. This place is not straight up.