Shuster plan prepared for vote

Rep. Bill Shuster’s landmark effort to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system is up for a vote, weeks before funding for the Federal Aviation Administration expires.

Shuster’s “21st Century AIRR Act,” a plan that would fund the FAA while spinning off the entire air traffic control system to a private nonprofit, was placed on the calendar Wednesday. It is up for a vote this week, the Washington Post reported.

The bill has long been one of Shuster’s major legislative goals.

Supported by President Donald Trump and most major airlines but opposed by consumer groups and many Democrats in Congress, his plan would create a private board to run air traffic control and shift thousands of workers out of federal employment.

A busy legislative schedule raised questions about the timing for Shuster’s bill. Republican leaders in Congress have faced delays — with their early efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act stymied — and a series of fast-approaching deadlines to keep agencies open.

Shuster, R-9th District, has said a private air traffic control system would work more smoothly after years of delays in implementing technology upgrades.

Democrats on Shuster’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have spoken out against the move. On Thursday, ranking Democrat Pete DeFazio, D-Ore., and a colleague issued a public letter to colleagues, attributing Shuster’s plan to “special interests” and defending the existing system.

Lawmakers split on Harvey bill

A vote to approve billions of dollars for Hurricane Harvey cleanup — along with a hike in the national debt limit — met with mixed support from local congressmen Friday.

The bill passed the House 316-90, two days after Trump offered a surprise announcement that he supported a short-term increase in the debt limit tied to cleanup money. Congressional Democrats had pushed for such a deal, despite opposition from Republican leaders.

Shuster voted for the bill, as did Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-5th District. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-12th District, opposed the measure.

In a written statement, Rothfus said he supported Harvey aid only if it wasn’t tied to a raise in the debt ceiling, the self-imposed limit Congress has set on its own borrowing. The package passed Friday, he said, “adds hundreds of billions of unpaid-for spending.”

While some Republicans opposed the bill, the vote looked noticeably different from a similar one after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in 2012.

At that time, the vast majority of House Republicans voted no — including Rothfus, Thompson and Shuster — many citing concerns about out-of-control spending.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.