This was a vote on final passage of legislation authorizing annual funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, and limiting the ability of federal aviation and railroad workers to form unions. (The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has regulatory authority over all civil aviation in the United States.) Specifically, the bill reinstated rule requiring that workers who did not vote at all in union elections would be counted as having voting against unionizing. The unionization rule reinstated by the bill had been in place for more than 70 years until the Obama administration overturned the policy in 2009.
The bill also cut $2 billion in federal funding for making improvements at U.S. airports. Overall, the bill cut $4 billion in federal funding for FAA operations—reducing total FAA funding to 2008 levels.
Rep. John Mica (R-FL) urged support for the bill: “Now, the first thing you will hear from the other [Democratic] side is, Oh, the Republicans are cutting and slashing important FAA programs and safety and security and everything under the sun will be at risk. I can tell you that that's not the case. I can tell you that you can do more with less, and we can prioritize. In fact, in this bill, to make certain that safety is our primary concern--and it must be our primary concern--we have put specific provisions in here that if there are cuts or reductions--and heaven knows the FAA and the Department of Transportation certainly can have reductions in bureaucratic staffing. My dad used to say when he was alive, `Son, it's not how much you spend; it's how you spend it.' And it's just like that with personnel.”
Mica also argued: “…You will hear them moan and groan about some labor provision that someone described that we're taking away democratic rights and all of this for union members. It couldn't be further from the truth. We have had 70-some years of rules organizing for labor where we've always had a majority of those who were affected have to vote in a union. Now they [Democrats] want to change it to whoever shows up.”
Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) also supported the bill: “The bill funds the FAA at the fiscal year 2008 funding levels and will save $4 billion compared to the current levels. These funding levels recognize the state of the Federal budget, but should not affect vital safety functions….Given current economic times, there is a need to put our limited resources where they are most needed and use them efficiently. Although we cannot do all that we may have wanted to, when facing budget cuts, difficult decisions have to be made. We have worked to preserve the ability of the FAA to conduct its safety functions--its most important mission and our number one priority.”
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) opposed the bill: “The FAA is primarily a safety agency, and virtually all of its activities are safety related...now is not the time to arbitrarily cut almost $4 billion from the FAA programs and argue that the agency can do more with less on safety. A long-term FAA reauthorization bill must move the aviation system into the 21st century, create jobs, strengthen our economy, and provide the resources necessary to enhance safety. This legislation, unfortunately, does not meet those goals. It will require significant changes before it can be enacted into law, and therefore I cannot support it.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) criticized the bill’s anti-unionization provision, calling it “a labor provision that was thrown in rather gratuitously that says that anyone who chooses not to vote in an election will be counted as a `no.'” He argued: “The interesting thing is, if we had that same standard for elections to the United States House of Representatives, not one single member now sitting would have won their election because it's not just the people who are registered to vote. It's anybody who is eligible to vote. And if they don't vote or don't register to vote, they count as a `no.' I mean, some people might be happy, there would be no House of Representatives. But at least the sitting members would not be here. They want to apply that standard to representation for labor unions.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 223-196. Voting “yea” were 221 Republicans and 2 Democrats. 185 Democrats and 11 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation authorizing annual funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, and limiting the ability of federal aviation and railroad workers to form unions.