My apologies for the e-mail exchanges we have been having this week, but I did want to thank you for your tremendous response to yesterdays message asking for immediate action in contacting your senator to fight user fees. Let me assure you that your phone calls were very important in disrupting the airlines' attempt to have user fees pass unopposed by the Senate Commerce Committee. This committee is the first of nearly a dozen political bodies that will weigh in on the FAA financing issue.No, Phil, you have one thing wrong...we should be thanking YOU.
We lost a close vote by a margin of 12 to 11 on the Nelson/Sununu amendment that would have struck the $25 air traffic modernization surcharge" from the Senate FAA funding bill. By early evening last night, the after-hours Senate office voicemails were filled to capacity by many of the more than 135,000 AOPA members who heeded our call to action. Late yesterday afternoon, I was actually waiting to see a senator in his office and watching and listening while his administrative staff was answering your calls.
Eleven members of the Commerce Committee deserve special recognition from pilots for their tremendous work in supporting the fight against user fees. First of all, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and John Sununu (R-N.H.) did excellent work in stepping forward to sponsor the amendment. Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and David Vitter (R-La.) all supported the amendment.
On the other side, there were 12 senators who supported user fees: Sens. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Claire C. McCaskill (D-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).
Frankly, even this defeat sent a very strong message that AOPA members do not support user fees for any segment of aviation! This is important because we are still in the early stages. This bill will also need action by the Senate Finance Committee before it reaches a vote by the full Senate. Your hard work has been an impressive opening round, and we still have yet to see any action in the House of Representatives. By midday Thursday, May 17, you can access our full Web story here.
More importantly, for those of you who made contacts of any kind, this Web story will contain audio clips if your senator spoke on behalf of or in opposition to the amendment. This will not be the only time we call on you this year, but you have proven that our highly targeted method of AOPA member contact is effective.
Thanks so much,
Phil Boyer AOPA President