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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 DeFazioHillicon Valley: DOJ to review cyber challenges | Gaetz, House Republicans want to end funding for postal service surveillance | TikTok gets new CEO On The Trail: Census data kicks off the biggest redistricting fight in American history Push for infrastructure gas-tax hike loses steam MORE (Ore.) and Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenDemocrats debate fast-track for infrastructure package LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker COVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday 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.