Did you recently get stuck at a delay-plagued airport when this month’s Nor’easter disrupted aviation operations from the Midwest to the East Coast? If so, count members of Congress among your fellow stranded fliers.
Lawmakers’ frequent trips to their home states often put them at risk of being captives at congested airports across the country.
Veteran road warriors of both political parties go to lengths to avoid notorious hub airports like Chicago O’Hare, Detroit Metro, LaGuardia and Newark International.
“I try to avoid most of them,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said when asked which hubs he avoids. When pressed, however, he mouthed a single word: “O’Hare.”
Yet lawmakers also are being stymied by operations at the new Donald J. Trump International (DJT), which continues to be marked by delays, cancellations and reroutings.
After Trump was unable to get health-care legislation off the ground, Thune said it’s important for some other Trump priorities to take off before the next storm—or election—nears. That includes a major infrastructure plan that could help ease congestion in the nation’s aviation system.
“We need to get airborne, and, hopefully, we will,” Thune told Bloomberg BNA. “There’s a window there and we’ve got to make sure we make the most of the times we’ve got right now and try to move things. But it’s a process and we know it’s not going to be easy and part of that is because it takes so long to get these things through the Senate.”
Thune, who is chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said the tax code overhaul that’s moved to the front of the line could become a vehicle for the infrastructure plan Trump called for in the campaign.
“Infrastructure could hitch a ride on tax reform,” Thune said. “That’s probably what it will take to get Democrats.”
But first Republicans have to find a way to keep the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court and a government funding bill on track at the same time.
It’s all adding up to a scene right out of Die Hard 2, where the air traffic control supervisor played by Thune’s former colleague Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) managed an airport hub in crisis. Thompson also was a Republican presidential candidate in 2008 but died in 2015.
“Rack ‘em, stack ‘em, and pack ‘em,” Thompson growled in the film as he directed planes to keep circling.
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