Congress Lobbies To Protect Flights Out of D.C.

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 19 2013 3:02 PM

Lawmakers Work to Ensure They Can Continue to Leave D.C. as Quickly as Possible

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The control tower at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on August 2, 2012 in Arlington, VA.

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

If there’s one thing that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress can agree on, it’s the importance of calling it a short week and jetting out of Washington, D.C., just as fast as they possibly can. It helps to explain why more than half of the Senate failed to show at last Thursday’s major briefing on NSA spying, in favor of heading home for a (very) long Father's Day weekend.

For many—if not most—members of Congress such trips home often begin at Reagan National Airport, which at only minutes away is hugely convenient for those looking to arrive in town at the last minute and leave the first chance they get. But if the pending merger between American Airlines and US Airways is approved, the new mega-airline could be forced to give up slots at the D.C. airport as a condition of the deal, which in turn could lead to fewer direct flights between Washington and many of the smaller airports that are the final destination for many congressmen. You know what that means: bipartisanship! Reuters explains:

Over 100 members of Congress have asked U.S. regulators to allow American Airlines and US Airways Group to keep all their airport slots at Reagan .... Representatives Mike Michaud, a Maine Democrat; John Duncan, a Tennessee Republican; and 104 bipartisan colleagues argued to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Attorney General Eric Holder that requiring divestiture of slots would mean fewer flights to smaller cities like Bangor and Portland, Maine.
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The lawmakers, of course, maintain they're just looking out for their constituents who want easy access in and out of the nation's capital. "It has nothing to do with lawmakers' convenience and everything to do with representing small communities that rely on these direct flights for economic benefits," Rep. Michaud, who currently enjoys US Air's thrice-a-day direct flights between Reagan and Bangor, told NPR. "This is a bipartisan response to what we have heard from our constituents back home in the district."

Of course, there aren't a whole lot of constituents who fly in and out of Reagan almost every week when Congress is in session, as many congressmen do. So, not coincidentally, the constituents' gain is Congress' bigger gain.

If the bipartisan effort is successful, it won't be the first time that Congress has used its power to make flying a little easier for everyone, including themselves. In April, lawmakers reversed sequestration cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration—which were causing inconvenient flight delays around the country—only moments before jetting home.

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