Hailing Passage of FAA Reauthorization Bill with SEAT and PETS Provisions
September 29, 2018
This week, the House passed a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill with several safety and common-sense provisions that I introduced, including the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act, which will require the FAA to regulate cramped airplane seating as a safety issue. I also expressed grave concern at allegations that Judge Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault, spoke out to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, remembered civic leader Phil Trenary, hailed House passage of the Music Modernization Act, welcomed a Senate committee’s action advancing my effort to name a Memphis post office for Judge Russell B. Sugarmon, met with a group of patient advocates, held a “Congress On Your Corner,” planned to host military academy applicants and offered a health tip. Keep reading to learn more about my week and follow me on Twitter and Facebook to see more updates as they happen.
Hailing Passage of FAA Reauthorization Bill with SEAT and PETS Provisions
On Wednesday, the House voted 398 to 23 to pass the five-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that included several provisions I introduced, including the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act, which requires the FAA to establish minimum seat size and distance between rows of seats on commercial aircraft to protect the safety of the flying public. The bill also included the Planes Ensuring Total Safety (PETS) Act which I introduced with Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) to prohibit placing live animals in planes’ overhead compartments, putting an end to the practice that has resulted in accidental deaths that have been widely reported in recent years. In addition, the bill contains a provision I sponsored to make airplane pilots’ records of DUI’s, suspended or revoked driver licenses available to the FAA so that they can’t pilot airplanes. Further, the bill contains a provision to prohibit discriminatory taxes on certain services like car rentals at airports. As Tennessee State Senator Leonard Dunavant used to say, “Don’t tax me, don’t tax thee, tax that man behind the tree.” The taxes prohibited in the bill are just that. Although I was disappointed that the final bill did not contain the Forbid Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees amendment that I offered, which would have protected consumers from unreasonable baggage and flight cancellation charges and make them proportional to the cost of services provided, I was proud to have succeeded in negotiating the inclusion of five of my initiatives, including some significant safety measures, in the House-passed legislation and I look forward to swift Senate consideration.
All week, but particularly on Thursday, I expressed my belief that the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court looked like a collision of the “Me Too” movement and a Senate Majority unwilling to uncover the truth about allegations the nominee committed sexual assault. The Senate has lost much of its prestige and the reputation of the Supreme Court itself – which most Americans believe should retain non-political objectivity and independence – has now been tainted, as well. Christine Blasey Ford is a brave woman and I believe her while Kavanaugh chose to dissemble and deflect questions about the charge and I believe he lied about his drinking, calling into question his veracity. There’s no excuse for not conducting an FBI investigation of these allegations and for not questioning Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, who Ford identified as the third person in the room when the assault occurred. If Kavanaugh is approved, it will because the truth no longer matters. On The Hill’s television program “Rising” on Wednesday morning, in a floor speech Wednesday afternoon and again on C-Span’s “Washington Journal”Thursday morning, I expressed my belief that the allegations appeared credible and that Kavanaugh’s name should be withdrawn. I continue to hope that a majority of Senators, including a few in the Majority with backbones and clear consciences, will vote down his nomination. Prior to the testimony of Dr. Ford, I wrote to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee asking them to take procedural precautions not to re-traumatize Dr. Ford in her appearance before a national audience.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller
On Wednesday, I spoke on the House floor in favor of the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (H.R. 2644) in the wake of credible reports that the President was about to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who has been overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The existential threat Mueller’s probe poses for this presidency makes it likely that some effort will be made to shut it down or have a Trump ally in a position to limit its scope. The Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which I helped introduce in April, would establish that the President could remove Mueller or any future special counsel only for cause, such as misconduct, incapacity or conflict of interest. So far, the Majorities in both Houses have not seen the urgency of putting this needed protection in place -- for a former Republican FBI director who is winning convictions and guilty pleas -- but I will continue to urge them to do so.
Fred Smith, Congressman Cohen and Phil Trenary
I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death Thursday night of my friend Phil Trenary, CEO of the Memphis Chamber and a civic booster of the first rank. Phil came to Memphis to run a regional airline but took on a variety of duties to make his adopted city a better place. My sincere condolences go to his family, his colleagues and his many friends.
Dionne Warwick with Congressman Cohen
On Tuesday night, the House passed the Music Modernization Act which the Senate passed the previous week. It now goes to the President to be signed into law. The law will update music licensing for the first time in 20 years and finally brings us into the age of streaming and other 21st century media technologies. The bill contains elements of the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service and Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act, which I co-sponsored, which will resolve uncertainties over copyright protections for certain pre-1972 sound recordings and clarify digital royalties for pre- and post-1972 sound recordings. The bill is good for music and good for Memphis musicians. At a House Judiciary Committee field hearing on the measure in January, lawmakers heard from witnesses Dionne Warwick and Memphis music impresario Booker T. Jones, who noted that his 1962 classic “Green Onions” is still treated as “pre-’72.”
Also Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed my legislation to rename the facility at 1325 Autumn Avenue as “The Judge Russell B. Sugarmon Post Office.” The Senate committee’s action clears the way for consideration by the full Senate. I’m grateful to the Senate committee and appreciate the support of Senators Alexander and Corker for approving legislation to name the Autumn Avenue post office for the Civil Rights pioneer, lawyer and jurist. There is no one more deserving of this honor, and I appreciate my colleagues’ recognition of Judge Sugarmon’s stature in our community and around the country. I look forward to final passage in the Senate and seeing the measure signed into law. The House passed the Sugarmon post office bill on September 13, 2018.
On Thursday, members of the National Patient Advocate Foundation stopped by my office to discuss the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) which I cosponsored and which passed the House earlier this year. They are also advocating legislative remedies to limit medical debt and surprise billing. This week, I cosponsored the Fair Billing Act to address surprise billing in emergency rooms. I was pleased to meet with Brenda Kyles of the Memphis-Shelby County Health Department, Memphians Faye Hollowell, Wy Harris and William Roperson and Debra Poppelaars of Nashville in my Washington office.
On Friday, my district staff held a “Congress On Your Corner” at the Cordova Branch Library. These events allow constituents to get help with federal agencies like the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and with their veterans, Social Security and Medicare benefits. My next “Congress on Your Corner” will be on Friday, October 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On Saturday, September 29, I will host the annual Military Service Academy-Senior Reserve Officer Training Day at Crosstown High School, 1365 Tower Avenue, from 9 a.m. to noon. Appointments to one of the five military service academies – for the Navy, Air Force, Army, Merchant Marines or Coast Guard -- are life-changing events and lead to preparation of future military officers. Chosen students get an excellent education and a ticket to a bright future. I look forward to seeing some aspiring applicants at the Crosstown Concourse. The high school is on the fourth floor. For more information, contact Jeremy Jordan in my Memphis office at (901) 544-4131 or Jeremy.Jordan@mail.house.gov
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Each week, I share a health tip in the hope of promoting a healthy lifestyle for residents of the 9th Congressional District. As always, it is best to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet, exercise routine or lifestyle.
September is Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month, recognizing a leading cause of disability that affects one in four Americans and generates $140 billion in medical costs each year. Read more about arthritis and other rheumatic diseases from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases here.
Senator Dick Durban of Illinois: “Dr. Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: "100 percent."
As always, I remain.