Legislative Effort Supports Air Traffic Controllers

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A couple of House members have launched a last-minute bid to prevent the FAA from imposing a contract on air traffic controllers. Representatives Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) and Sue Kelly (R-N.Y.) have introduced a "discharge petition" to force a vote on bill H.R. 4755, which would send the dispute to binding arbitration. Costello, the senior Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee, said the current process is "unbalanced" and he doesn't think Congress is going to act. "A discharge petition is our last opportunity to try to get the two sides back to the bargaining table and arrive at a contract that both sides find acceptable and that best serves the traveling public, particularly as we approach the heart of the summer travel season," Costello said in a news release. A discharge petition is a rarely used mechanism that allows the rank-and-file membership of the House to override the power of leadership members to suppress bills they don't support. Seven days after introduction of the petition, the sponsors can start gathering signatures (in this case on Tuesday) and if they get the support of a simple majority of the House (218 members) then the bill automatically vaults from committee discussion to the floor for a vote. The odds currently look favorable (there are 249 sponsors for the legislation) but there's undoubtedly plenty of lobbying and deal-making going on. Although parallel legislation has been introduced in the Senate, there's no sign of a similar movement to get it to a vote. Both bodies must do something by June 5 or the FAA's last best offer will be imposed.