Congressional Observer

 - October 8, 2007, 6:36 AM

Aside from the cost of military actions against the terrorist factions following the September 11 attacks, the big question is, how the government is going to pay for everything else it wants to do.

There had been a $176 billion surplus projected for fiscal 2002, but that was before September 11. Congress quickly allocated $40 billion to deal with recovery, rebuilding and defense needs in addition to the $15 billion bailout package for the airlines. At that point, the Congressional Budget Office initially estimated the surplus would be reduced to between $40 and $60 billion.

Then, congressional leaders forged a united front in support of bills dealing directly with the aftermath of the attacks and, as far as other legislation was concerned, initially pledged to alter priorities and to eliminate controversial bills and amendments that dealt with campaign financing, “faith-based” social services, Medicare prescription drug benefits and changes in Social Security. However, bipartisanship has never endured for long under any circumstances, and there were bills popping up all over Congress for such items as $37 billion for Amtrak, $70 billion in grants and loans for rail improvement and $16 billion for healthcare benefits for displaced workers, to mention just a few. And added to those billions, President Bush endorsed an economic stimulus program that could total as much as $75 billion. At press time, spending costs were estimated as close to $200 billion and still counting.

So that brings up the big question of money. Any surplus is sure to be wiped out and pundits guess that tapping hitherto sacrosanct trust funds and deficit spending may provide only partial answers.

At the end of September there were still some 13 annual spending bills pending that had not been signed into law. To allow more time for resolving differences in the House and Senate, Congress passed a stopgap measure to keep the government in business until October 16. Such stopgap measures are not at all unusual, but a continuing series of such measures as time runs out sometimes leads to a massive appropriations bill that could find a home for miscellaneous amendments, sometimes larded with pork, and without time to debate merits of such legislation.

Not unexpectedly, numerous bills relating to aviation matters, some with similar provisions, were introduced in both Houses and are listed below with a brief description as to subject matter. AIN suggests that if a particular bill is of specific interest, inquiries as to the full text should be addressed to the bill sponsor or via a local Congressman.

• S.1429, the Airport and Seaport Terrorism Prevention Act, introduced by Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), would provide for the improvement of security at airports and seaports.

• S.1444, the Federal Air Marshals and Safe Sky Act of 2001, introduced by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would establish a federal air marshals program under the attorney general.

• S.1447, the Aviation Security Act, introduced by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), would establish a deputy administrator for aviation security with responsibility for hiring and training employees engaged in providing aviation-related security at U.S. airports.

• S.1450, the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), was passed and allocated $15 billion to airlines to preserve the continued viability of the U.S. air transportation system.

• S.1454, introduced by Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.), would provide assistance for employees who are laid off as a direct result of reductions in service by air carriers and closures of airports caused by terrorist actions or security measures.

• S.1455, introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), would regulate the training of foreigners to operate jet-propelled aircraft.

• S.1458, introduced by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), would facilitate the voluntary provision of emergency services during commercial air flights.

• S.1461, introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (R-Ill.), would require the screening of passengers and property on flights in air transportation to be carried out by employees of the FAA and to assist small- to medium-size airports with security enhancements.

• S.1464, introduced by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the definition of rural airports for purposes of the air transportation tax.

• S.1463, the Airline Safety Act of 2001, introduced by Sen. Robert Smith (R-N.H.), would provide for the safety of American aviation and the suppression of terrorism.
• S.1473, introduced by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), would provide for the enhancement of security at airports in the U.S.

• H.R.2891, introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), is a bill similar to S.1450 noted above.

• H.R.2895, the Aviation Security Enhancement Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), has provisions similar to S.1461 noted above and would expand the federal air marshal program and establish requirements for carry-on baggage.

• H.R.2896, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), would provide for the safety of U.S. aviation and the suppression of terrorism.

• H.R.2906, the Emergency Aviation Security Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.), would direct the FAA to re-implement the sky marshal program within 30 days.

• H.R.2913, the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), would direct the FAA Administrator to carry out the screening of passengers and property on flights in air transportation.

• H.R.2926, the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act, introduced by Rep. Young, is similar to S.1450 and Young’s H.R.2891.

• H.R.2927, introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), would limit the amount of total compensation for top executives of air carriers that receive certain federal relief.

• H.R.2932, the Safe Skies Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), would require background checks for individuals enrolled in flight schools.

• H.R.2945, the Ancillary Airline Industry Relief Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Alcee Hastings (R-Fla.), would authorize the Transportation Secretary to make grants to travel agencies, car rental companies and other business concerns in the ancillary airline industry to provide compensation for losses due to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

• H.R.2946, the Displaced Workers Relief Act of 2001, also introduced by Rep. Hastings would provide assistance to employees who suffer loss of employment in the airline industry as a result of the terrorist attacks.

• H.R.2948, the Deployment of Federal Air Marshals Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Baker, would direct the FAA Administrator to provide for random deployment of federal air marshals on certain commercial passenger flights.

• H.R.2955, the Displaced Workers Assistance Act, introduced by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), would provide assistance for employees who are laid off as a direct result of reductions in service by airlines and closures of airports due to the terrorist attacks.

• H.R.2951, the Aviation Security Act, introduced by Rep. Greg Ganske (R-Iowa), would improve aviation security by calling for a deputy administrator for aviation security and an aviation security coordination council.

• H.R.1957, the Secure Aviation Employment and Training Enhancement Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Michael Castle (R-Del.), would direct the FAA Administrator to implement a criminal background check program for pilot and flight-service training applicants.

• H.R.2988, introduced by Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.), would Congressional Observer (continued):
provide for the regulation of flight schools and flight-school applicants for purposes of enhancing national security and aviation safety.

• H.R.3007, the General Aviation Small Business Relief Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), would provide economic relief to general aviation small business concerns that have suffered a substantial economic injury as a result of the terrorist attacks.

• H.R.3028, the Baggage Screening Act, introduced by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), would require the screening of all property carried in aircraft in air transportation.

• H.R.3030, introduced by Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), would extend the basic pilot-employment verification system.

• H.R.3045, the Displaced Aircraft Manufacturers Relief Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), would provide assistance to employees who suffer loss of employment in the manufacturing industry as a result of the terrorist attacks.

• H.R.3055, introduced by Rep. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.), would preserve the continued viability of certain businesses that are an integral part of the air transportation system.

• H.R.3056, the Flight Deck and Aircraft Integrity Enhancement Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio), would direct the FAA Administrator to take certain actions to improve airline security.