By Bartholomew Sullivan
January 26, 2011
WASHINGTON — Passing a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill will be the House Transportation Committee’s first priority, its new chairman said Wednesday at the committee’s first meeting of the new Congress.
Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., said the aviation industry accounts for 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and needs “a blueprint” for the future.
“The country and the committee deserve as our first objective getting an FAA bill out,” Mica said. “We are going to pass a bill some way, so I need everybody on the committee pushing for that. … It costs money. People aren’t working.”
The FAA bill, which includes provisions for modernizing the nation’s aviation navigation systems, has been extended 17 times since it expired in 2007.
A contentious labor provision, harmful to FedEx’s interests, was a factor in the delays. The provision was championed by the committee’s previous chairman, James Oberstar, D-Minn. In a stunning upset, Oberstar was defeated for re-election in November.
“You never know what fate has in store,” Mica said of that development.
After Mica took the committee gavel, he then asked 20 freshmen Republican members, including U.S. Reps. Stephen Fincher of Crockett County and Rick Crawford of Jonesboro, Ark., to introduce themselves and say something of their districts.
“Stephen Fincher. Tennessee 8. Frog Jump, Tenn. I look forward to working with the Transportation Committee,” Fincher began, then provided a thumbnail sketch. “Bordered on the west by the Mississippi River, the east by the Tennessee River. FedEx. Memphis. Key part of our state and our country moving forward. It’s an honor to serve.”
Fincher will serve on the aviation subcommittee as well as subcommittees dealing with pipelines and hazardous materials and with economic development.
Crawford, whose Delta district includes Crittenden County, said it will be “a privilege.”
Although he, too, is in his first term, Crawford, a former rodeo announcer, was named vice chairman of the subcommittee on economic development, public buildings and emergency management.
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., is also on the committee.
FedEx spokesman Maury S. Lane welcomed the chairman’s resolve.