On House Floor, Shuster Refuses to Withdraw Amendment and Insists It Will Not Have Impact on Current Safety Rulemakings; Legal Counsel Predicts Otherwise
Buffalo, New York- April 1, 2011 – With a make-or-break safety vote looming Friday morning on the Shuster amendment to the House’s FAA Bill, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ made a last-minute appeal to all members of the House Republican Caucus to vote “NO” on the poorly-worded, anti-safety language that would seriously jeopardize the landmark regional airline aviation safety legislation passed last summer.
“We actually got a call from the Regional Airline Association yesterday proclaiming their innocence in this whole fiasco,” stated John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his 24-year old daughter Ellyce when Flight 3407 crashed less than one mile from his home. “They have nothing to fear – the NACA and CAA and every other alphabet-soup special interest group under the sun are scurrying door-to-door here on the House side, trying to convince unsuspecting staffers that this amendment really does not affect safety or any already-underway safety rulemakings. Meanwhile there’s just a handful of us here on the Hill, and we are just trying to say that we have learned in the hardest way possible that there is more to life than umpteen cost-benefit analyses. The sad thing is that many of the members who control our destiny today with their votes probably have a beautiful baby girl like I did, but they’ll actually be able to fly home to their districts and kiss her good night after they cast their votes.”
Members of the family group struggled through the debate on the floor, as Rep. Shuster (R-PA) repeatedly tried to argue that his “intent” with the amendment was not to affect any of the FAA’s safety rulemakings that were directed by PL 111-216, the safety bill which passed Congress last summer through voice vote in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate. Meanwhile, legal counsel offered that to the contrary, the amendment would have an adverse impact on all eight of the Flight 3407-related rulemakings in progress at the FAA, ranging from training, to pilot minimum qualifications, to the extremely critical area of pilot fatigue and decades-overdue reforms to flight and duty time regulations.
“I happen to take Rep. Shuster at his word that he certainly didn’t intend to compromise safety when he put this amendment forward,” stated Scott Maurer of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his daughter Lorin on Flight 3407. “But he did accept a whole lot of money over his career from the airline industry ($115,750 over the past 10 years according to a Buffalo News examination of FEC records), which clearly earned their lobbyists the right to spoon-feed him this language and talking points. We’ve been watching these special interests at work for months now. When Plan A of having Senator Inhofe introduce an explicit carve out in the Senate protecting cargo and non-scheduled carriers from the fatigue rulemaking failed, Plan B called for someone in the House to introduce this dubious amendment. An amendment that could not be any more vague, and that would leave the industry maximum wiggle room to file legal challenges if they don’t like the final rules issued by the FAA. I believe in the military they call that a Bunker Buster; it burrows deep without detonating and then has a delayed, maximum impact when not expected. For the good of this crucial fatigue rulemaking and other safety initiatives to come, we simply cannot allow this to happen.”
The group also expressed concern about any possible last-minute attempts to save face and win passage of this amendment by tweaking the language, possibly seeking to exempt any currently-underway safety rulemakings.
“We are not going to give our blessing to something that at some point down the road, would make it nearly impossible for a victims group like us to achieve responsive action from the FAA on critical safety issues,” stated Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, who lost her sister and noted 9/11 activist Beverly Eckert. “You can try to dress this up however you like, but we all know which special interests that it’s attempting to help and what it’s attempting to do for them, which is make it more difficult for the FAA to do its job and regulate them.”