Lawmakers fast-tracking privatizing air traffic control systems

Although House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., was opposed by his own party in his first attempt to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system, he has hope that his second try will be a success. Shuster has since earned the support of President Trump and appeared at an “infrastructure week” event at the White House.

“That’s going to help immensely,” Shuster said, signaling that the House would advance his plan “in July.”

Shuster’s goal may be delayed by an argument over raising the federal debt ceiling before Congress leaves town at the end of July for summer recess. In July and part of August in 2011, the conflict over the debt ceiling consumed Congress and brought work on other issues to a virtual standstill.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress recently that legislators should increase the debt limit prior to their summer recess. Fox News reported that “Mnuchin wants a ‘clean’ debt limit increase. That means Congress simply votes to up the threshold without any attachments like offsets. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney would like to latch spending cuts or other policy provisions to any potential increase.”

Such legislative “sweeteners” might be required to convince some lawmakers—such as conservative Republicans—to vote to increase the debt.

“The Treasury Secretary is and should always be the person in charge of debt-limit negotiations, debt-limit legislation,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., apparently siding against former House colleague Mulvaney. But Ryan claimed that he is not “forecasting any option” on how to address the debt ceiling, including working with “Democrats and the other side of the Capitol in the Senate.”

Mnuchin met last week with House Republicans regarding tax reform and the debt ceiling, and called the meeting “good.” But all parties have not reached a consensus. Some Republicans want to couple the debt limit plan with the tax reform bill and move the legislation through without Democrats. Adding tax reform could increase the likelihood of Republicans voting for the package. Otherwise, Republicans might have to rely on Democrats.

Following the meeting with Mnuchin, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said, “Democrats are not going to cooperate with us on anything. So if we have to do a debt ceiling increase along with tax policy, that would seem to me to be a pot-sweetener for some of the conservatives that will be otherwise reluctant to vote for a debt ceiling increase.”

“Nobody likes to raise the debt ceiling, including myself,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. “You hope to get some reforms in there. If you can get something big like simplifying the tax code, that would be a big one.”

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