Earlier this year, retiring Rep. Bill Shuster’s gambit to force a quasi-privatization of the nation’s air traffic control system finally hit a dead end.
The scheme had been the #1 policy priority of Shuster’s girlfriend, who is a lobbyist for Airlines for America, the Big Airline trade group in town.
However, it was staunchly opposed by general aviation groups, conservatives who saw it as entailing Congress delegating away its taxation authority to a board of unelected bureaucrats, and appropriators.
And last night, one of those appropriators apparently b*tch-slapped Shuster when he attempted to sneak an amendment into a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration that opponents of the plan said amounted to shuttling in faux-privatization by the back door.
A “managers amendment” to the bill attempted to create an “Aerospace Management Advisory Council,” which would have closely mirrored the structure of the board of directors from Shuster’s previous “privatization” effort, and which critics said would not be accountable to the public. It was decried by one opponent as a “thinly veiled attempt to move in the direction of a privatized system and give more power to the airlines.”
But the amendment went down in flames after Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a top appropriator and member of the House Rules Committee, stepped in calling it a bridge too far, and remarking “It’s pretty unusual, I think, for something this substantive on a bill that’s been worked for this long to come at this late stage in the process before any of us have a chance to see it and expect us to sign off and vote for it.” That’s congressman-speak for “get stuffed,” or perhaps something even more colorful.
The upshot is, it looks like Shuster really will be leaving Congress without delivering his girlfriend’s employer’s top policy priority to them on a silver platter. That’s a good thing for congressional ethics, regardless of where one stands on the policy substance.