FAA battle shows special interests reign in D.C.

Mario H. Lopez President, Hispanic Leadership Fund
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With the country in the grips of an economic downturn, unemployment hovering just below double digits, underemployment well over 10% and 14 million Americans looking for work, one would think elected officials on Capitol Hill would be sensitive about spending taxpayer dollars and focus on job creation as opposed to special-interest bailouts.

Unfortunately, that is just not the case.

Some in Washington are refusing to extend the Federal Aviation Administration’s authorization, because they want taxpayers to continue to subsidize empty airports that often have more workers than passengers.

As unbelievable as it sounds, some senators are threatening the most recent FAA extension because they are protecting subsidies costing thousands of dollars per passenger. In Nevada— Democrat Leader Harry Reid’s home state — taxpayers spent over $3,700 per passenger for the 471 passengers who used the Ely airport instead of driving an extra hour to another airport.

The extension passed in the House of Representatives incorporates common-sense reforms like capping the subsidy at no more than $1,000 per passenger. That will save taxpayers millions each year. And contrary to some Democrat claims, the only issue holding up the extension is these subsidies.

As the recent debt ceiling debate has made all too clear, America is so deep in debt that Congress needs to authorize the Obama administration to borrow more money, even though creditors are on the verge of cutting up our credit cards.

The FAA debate is just more evidence that liberal senators like Harry Reid, John Rockefeller and Max Baucus want taxpayer-funded subsidies regardless of the national debt. These senators are even willing to risk another liberal holy grail, as the jobs of 4,000 government workers at the FAA are at risk if the agency is not reauthorized.

The reason the FAA wasn’t re-authorized in the first place — union opposition — is further proof that some in the nation’s capital still haven’t received the message that they were elected to work for us, not for special interests.

The FAA Reauthorization Bill, which funds the agency, undoes a rule change made by an unelected regulatory agency called the National Mediation Board (NMB) that upended nearly a century of precedent concerning union organizing elections.

Since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sat in the White House, the requirement to form a collective bargaining unit in the airline and railroad industries was that a majority of workers in a class or craft had to vote for a union. This was true for decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations. But President Obama’s administration has allowed labor advocates, masquerading as unbiased government bureaucrats, to change the policy. Incredibly, what they want is to allow a majority of those voting — not a majority of workers — to be able to force a union on workers in an entire class or craft.

As a result, the Obama administration is thrusting its forced unionization policies upon the airline and railroad industries, threatening jobs and the viability of the many companies transporting Americans and goods throughout the nation.

The House of Representatives has already passed the bill, and both Republicans and Democrat congressmen support undoing the NMB’s unseemly rule change, taking issue with this reprehensible handout to Big Labor bosses who invested nearly half a billion dollars to get Obama in the White House.

Now, those same union bosses are protesting the House and Senate negotiations over a long-term FAA bill while their lackeys in Congress once again tow the line at the expense of jobs, hard-working families and the overall health of the economy.

Sadly, the argument over the state of the FAA is a brilliant parallel to the national debate over the debt and whether politicians on Capitol Hill can come together to institute common-sense reforms.

The rational approach starts with passing the extension with spending cuts. Congress should then come together, pass the reauthorization legislation and reverse the NMB’s unfair rule change so airline and railroad workers aren’t forced into unions they otherwise would not freely join.

It is time for John Rockefeller and his band of Big Labor benefactors to pull the strings out of their backs and get something done for American workers, taxpayers and families.

Mario H. Lopez is the President of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting free enterprise, limited government, and individual liberty.