Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), the chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and chief architect of the proposal for an independent, user-funded air traffic organization, is retiring from Congress at the end of the year. Shuster this week announced his decision against running for re-election in November, saying, “It has been one of my life’s greatest honors to serve and represent the citizens of the 9th District for 17 years. It has also been a tremendous privilege to have been selected by my congressional colleagues to be chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for the last five years.”
However, he said that rather than focus on re-election he wants to focus on working to pass “a much needed infrastructure bill to rebuild America,” and added, “we have much still to do.”
While his statement focused on an infrastructure package, the T&I Committee maintained that both infrastructure and pending FAA reauthorization bill remain major priorities, and Shuster intends to move on both fronts. “The chairman will be 100 percent focused on working with his colleagues and the administration to get these initiatives over the goal line,” the committee stated.
Shuster departs Congress as he was set to relinquish the reins of the T&I Committee at the end of the year. He is facing a term-limit for number of years he could serve at the helm of the committee. One of his first actions after taking the reins of the committee was to quickly push through the last FAA reauthorization bill, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which was enacted within his first month as chairman.
The ATC proposal has become the centerpiece of the most recent FAA reauthorization proposal, H.R.2997, the 21st Century AIRR Act, but also has been the main stumbling block to progress on that bill. Shuster has been a fierce proponent of the bill, engaging in a major push that included old-fashioned horse-trading and grass roots lobbying, to get the bill through. He has come as close as any other previous lawmaker to getting the ATC proposal through the House.
But his decision to step down at the end of the year has quietly raised questions on whether his focus will need to shift more to infrastructure, given persistent opposition in the Senate to the ATC proposal.
The Senate has yet to act on its version of an ATC bill, but is expected to do so in advance of the March 31 expiration of the current authorization. While the fate of the House FAA reauthorization bill remains unclear, Shuster has an alternative path for the ATC proposal: the infrastructure proposal. However, that package might prove equally difficult to move forward.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association credited Shuster with helping out on key issues such as third-class medical reform, airport funding and other matters. “We look forward to working with Chairman Shuster in the days and months ahead to move a long-term FAA reauthorization bill that can get support from the entire aviation industry, as well as helping him move a bipartisan national infrastructure bill that will benefit all Americans,” the association added.