Senators ask FAA chief for moratorium on privatization

A bipartisan group of senators Thursday sent a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey requesting the agency impose a one-year moratorium on any private contracting of air traffic control towers.

Last week, the White House rejected a similar one-year hold on privatization, which has emerged as the most contentious issue of the $60 billion FAA reauthorization bill now pending before the Senate.

Democrats had previously sought explicit legislative prohibition of privatization, but Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J, and Senate Commerce Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Trent Lott, R-Miss., reached an agreement Tuesday to seek the one-year moratorium from President Bush. The White House rejected that deal, and now lawmakers are seeking "a written commitment" from the FAA prohibiting privatization for one year.

Lott joined Senate Commerce Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and ranking member Ernest (Fritz) Hollings, D-S.C., Commerce Aviation Subcommittee ranking member John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., in signing the letter to Blakey.

Although Lautenberg originally brokered the one-year moratorium agreement with Lott, he was not a co-signer of the Blakey letter Thursday. Lautenberg "wants to wait and see what the administrator's reaction is," a spokesman said today. If Blakey agrees to the moratorium, Lautenberg will then work to ensure that language is inserted into the reauthorization bill to reflect that, the spokesman said.

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