This was on a motion to have the House move to an immediate vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act. That Act provided $70 billion for airport capital improvements and $16.2 billion in airport improvement funding. It also required additional air safety requirements, including semi-annual FAA inspections of foreign repair stations, and drug and alcohol testing on those working on U.S. aircraft. In addition, it increased the maximum passenger facility fee that airports can charge. The rule for the bill permitted only certain amendments to be offered to it.
Rep. Arcuri (D-NY) began his statement in support of the rule, the motion to bring it to an immediate vote, and the bill itself by acknowledging that many of the safety improvements mandated by the bill “come with increased costs”. However, he added that the measure was still “long overdue.” Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), speaking in support of the purpose of the reauthorization act, said that “(I)f U.S. air travel is to continue its fundamental role in our economy, we have to make certain that we have the safest, most modern and efficient transportation system in the world. By reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration funding and safety oversight programs, the underlying legislation that is being brought to the floor takes an important step toward that goal. “
Rep. Diaz Balart then said “(A)lthough I support the underlying legislation . . . I must oppose the rule that is bringing it to the floor because it blocks . . . a complete and fair debate unnecessarily . . . The rule brought forth by the majority today forbids the House from considering amendments from Members on both sides of the aisle. Yes, it allows four out of six Republican amendments that were introduced in the Rules Committee, but it blocks, it prohibits, a total of 21 amendments. Some of those amendments are bipartisan amendments, and most are amendments from the majority party. I may not have voted for all those amendments . . . but I certainly believe that this House should have had the opportunity to debate them, to consider them, and to vote on all the amendments.
‘I don't know why . . . the majority, each time a bill comes up for consideration under a rule, it consistently . . . blocks amendments from debate. . . Is it that they're afraid of debate? Are they afraid of losing the vote on some amendments? Are they protecting their Members from what they consider to be tough, difficult votes? Are they afraid of the democratic process . . . ?”
Rep. Arcuri responded by pointing out that five of the eight amendments that Republicans asked to offer to the bill were made in order under the rule and that only seven of the twenty-two amendments offered by Democrats were made in order. He concluded “I would say that the percentage was more than fair on both sides of the aisle.”
The motion passed by a vote of 246-175 along almost straight party lines. All the “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Three other Democrats joined with one hundred and seventy-two Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved immediately to a vote on the rule setting the terms for considering the FAA Reauthorization Act.