Trump’s air traffic control overhaul would trigger spending cuts

Trump’s air traffic control overhaul would trigger spending cuts
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A President Trump-backed plan to separate air traffic control from the federal government would trigger a round of mandatory spending cuts, according to a new analysis.

A memo from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), released Monday by Democratic Reps. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioCongress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Progressives poised to shape agenda if Dems take back House MORE (Ore.) and Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenTransportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards Dems win nail-biter in charity congressional soccer game Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' MORE (Wash.), found that legislation to hand over the country’s air navigation system to a private entity would trigger budget sequestration, which automatically cuts some mandatory spending programs if a piece of legislation exceeds certain budget caps.

In the case of the air traffic control (ATC) spinoff plan, it would result in across-the-board spending cuts of $49 billion over the next 10 years. That would include cuts to Medicare, the Military Retirement Fund, the Federal Emergency Management Agency National Flood Insurance Fund and other critical programs, DeFazio and Larsen warned.

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“The bill creates an enormous cloud of uncertainty over the future and safety of the U.S. aviation system and increases the deficit by almost $100 billion,” Larsen and DeFazio wrote in a letter to colleagues. “As time passes, the pitfalls and dangers of ATC privatization continue to grow.”

But supporters of the spinoff plan say the CRS report is fraught with issues, because it's full of qualifiers and is based on a score from the Congressional Budget Office instead of the Office of Management and Budget.

“The CRS report is filled with so many caveats, qualifiers, and speculation that it’s pointless to try to draw any conclusions from it.  This is a classic example of Washington-think," said a Republican spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"Opponents of reform are continuing to rely on smoke and mirrors and flawed budget rules.  If you’re worried that shrinking the size of government, cutting taxes, and reducing federal spending by tens of billions of dollars is going to add to the deficit, then you’ve been in Washington too long.”

Still, the analysis is sure to be used as ammo by critics of the spinoff model, which was included in a long-term House proposal to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and was strongly endorsed by Trump earlier this year.

The measure could not win enough support before the FAA’s legal authority expired at the end of September, forcing lawmakers to enact a short-term extension.

Bill sponsors are still actively pushing to get the measure over the finish line in the House, but it’s unclear whether the measure will be able to gain traction. The FAA’s new legal authority expires at the end of March.