No FAA Bill? No-Fly List.

[ Posted Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 – 15:57 UTC ]

Every so often, I am moved to write a speech I'd dearly love to see President Obama give to the nation. This is one of those occasions. Call it a summertime daydream, if you will, but there's something going on right now in Washington that is downright obscene, and I think it would behoove the president to address it in the following fashion. I sure know I'd support his action, if he gave the following speech. And I suspect most everyone else would, too -- across the entire political spectrum.


Remarks as prepared for delivery by President Obama

Good evening, ladies and gentleman. I have a short statement to make, on the subject of yet another showdown in Congress -- all of whom apparently feel perfectly comfortable leaving town without doing their duty.

I cannot conceive of greater irony than the spectacle going on right now in Washington airports. Members of Congress are all flying home to enjoy a month of paid vacation (at taxpayer expense, of course). Most of them -- the ones who live outside the immediate region -- are flying home on airplanes out of airports which are all overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration. The cruel irony is that as Congress wings its way merrily off to sunny shores for a month, they forgot to pass a bill authorizing the F.A.A.'s budget. Talk about a free ride!

This is the absolute height of irresponsibility. The absolute apex of not caring what happens to America while they play their political games. Congress isn't worried that air traffic controllers won't be on the job, but they seem not to care that they've just made 70,000 people jobless, as projects the F.A.A. oversees grind to a halt because of Congress' refusal to do their jobs.

This is unacceptable. This is beyond dysfunctional. This is, in fact, an outrage. So I'm giving Congress a grace period of precisely two days, to get their butts back to Washington to fix this problem immediately. If I don't have a bill on my desk by the end of this Friday, I will instruct my Attorney General to immediately put every member of Congress on the "no-fly" list. To be blunt, if they can't find the time to fund the F.A.A. and prefer to take weeks off on vacation instead, then they will not be allowed to use the F.A.A.'s services in the meantime. Period.

I am sick of the partisan bickering in Washington, and I believe most Americans are just as disgusted by what Congress normally does as well -- or, more to the point, what they do not do. I blame all of them, which is why every single one of them will be on the "no-fly" list starting this Saturday morning. They can just take the bus to get to their corporate-sponsored junkets in the sunshine -- but they will not fly to get there. As every teenager in the country eventually discovers, when you don't do your homework, then you get grounded. Literally "grounded," in this case.

Members of Congress will just have to figure out another way of returning to Washington after this Saturday, because the airports will be closed to them. Folks in Congress who live out West should plan enough travel time to cross the country on the ground. Hawaiian legislators should look into boat schedules. My only regret in taking this action is that some members of Congress live close enough to Washington for this not to affect them -- because, ideally, I'd like to punish all of them.

Congress is unique in one respect -- most of the time, the things they do (and the things they fail to do) have an enormous impact on average Americans' lives, but only very rarely does anything they do have an impact on their own well-being. That is about to change. Think you're too important to take a bus or train, senator? Think again. Think you have a right to fly when you refuse to provide funding for the people who keep the flying public safe? Come Saturday, this right is going to disappear. Don't like it? Tough beans, congressman.

It's a little-known fact that even when Congress is supposed to be "in session," much of the time they define their own work week as "from Tuesday noon to Thursday noon." This obscenely generous work schedule allows them all to fly back to their home districts every single weekend and spend time on their number one priority -- raising campaign cash. I am crying no tears over the fact that placing them all on the no-fly list will make this lax schedule all but impossible until they produce a bill for me to sign. No more five-day weekends and two-day workweeks? Boo freakin' hoo.

Grounding Congress may be a drastic step, but in these times drastic steps are sometimes called for. And I am certain the American people are going to support me on this. In fact, I invite the American people to call up their members of Congress and let them know what they think about taking a month off when there is important work left to be done. Congress is paid by the citizens of this country. And it's time for a performance review.

It is quite literally insane to forbid this government agency from collecting taxes Congress has already passed. This is how you want to solve the deficit? By refusing to collect money? As I said, sheer insanity. We have already lost 200 million dollars in revenues. Coincidentally, this is the same amount of money as the program Congress is haggling over. If Congress does not act soon, the government could lose a billion dollars it is owed. And consumers are not even benefiting, because the airlines all jacked their prices up to collect this windfall of money.

This is no way to run a country. Congress has chosen its priorities -- a month of paid vacation is more important to them than doing the work they have been hired to do. This is unacceptable. The clock is now ticking. Come Saturday, if a bill isn't on my desk awaiting my signature, then all of Congress will be banned from flying until that bill appears.

Congress members will howl, of course. But you know what? I don't care. Go ahead and impeach me -- after you get back from vacation, of course. But mark my words -- you'll be riding Greyhound or Amtrak to get here. I invite all of these outraged members of Congress to make their case to the American people, in the meantime. Interrupt your summer holiday for an hour or so to hold a town hall meeting, and then attempt to explain to your constituents why you should be allowed on an airplane when a monthlong vacation is more important to you than doing your job. Good luck with that.

Thank you.

-- Chris Weigant


Cross-posted at Business Insider
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


24 Comments on “No FAA Bill? No-Fly List.”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That was extremely well said, President Obama. Here's hoping that this is a sign of things to come vis-a-vis getting real serious about calling out all of the nonsense coming out of Congress and/or campaign trail over the next year and a half.

    Seriously, Chris, I can't believe that this isn't more of an issue or that President Obama didn't take full public advantage of being on the right side of yet another critical issue with ALL of the facts on his side again, especially in the wake of the debt ceiling debate.

    Who knows, maybe there are some things going on behind the scenes that will bring all of this to a head - and a successful conclusion - in the next couple of days. There may even be a MIDOTW to be handed out as a result.

    I just only heard about this a few days ago on none other than the PBS Newshour. If this doesn't highlight what the Republicans are up to, then I don't know what will.

  2. [2] 
    dsws wrote:

    If going back to the district they represent, and listening to constituents scream about the debt-ceiling bill, listening to other constituents so incoherent you can't even tell what they're screaming about, and then groveling for money from still other constituents -- if all that is your idea of "vacation", I bet you could find a member of Congress who would be willing to let you do some of it for them, for pay. You would get paid to go on "vacation"! Aren't you going to go apply for the jobs none of the other staffers want?

  3. [3] 
    dsws wrote:

    We have already lost 200 billion dollars in revenues. Coincidentally, this is the same amount of money as the program Congress is haggling over. If Congress does not act soon, the government could lose a billion dollars it is owed.

    I assume the first b is supposed to be an m?

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You assume correctly.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ...well, at least, that's how Obama put it today at his cabinet meeting, I believe.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ...of course, there have been so many m's and b's and t's being thrown around of late, who knows anymore. :)

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    It's always heartening to see someone standing up for Congress.

    Still, they seemed pretty anxious to get the heck out of dodge and I don't recall hearing any one of them bemoan the fact that their inaction has cost the nation close enough to 100,000 jobs.

    Or, did I miss that?

  8. [8] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    One late Friday afternoon found me flying out of LAX. Airports, of course, have rush periods just like surface roads, and we were in one. On United, passengers can listen to the cockpit communication on the in-flight audio. I listened in as the controller moved aircraft across each other's paths, on and off taxi ways and ramps, with the assured precision and authority that is required in, and formed on, that job. He was so good, so efficient, that when he issued our takeoff clearance, our pilot went out of his way to complement him with the clipped "excellent job, sir" of their business. The controller's reply was only "it's what we do," and we were gone.

    It's disgusting to think of men and women like that, working the ground at Dulles or National, moving planes filled with the Members on their way to do even less than none of the nation's business for a month. Unlike Congress, for them, doing the job the best it can be done is what they do.

    Once again, the phrase we've heard so often in so many contexts comes to mind: the only difference between the bastards is that while the Democrats seem to not have a brain, the Republicans have no heart.

    And, yes, I know that for many, that second airport is named "Reagan". It's just that I have a hard time using that name, and mention of air traffic controllers, in the same paragraph.

    Update: Last night, I wrote that there was credible evidence that the Bank of Japan was intervening directly in the currency markets to support to Dollar against the Yen. About an hour ago, the BoJ confirmed it, and it is continuing now.

  9. [9] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    dsws [3] -

    Man, you guys are quick!

    I thought I had fixed that before anyone noticed it... then I read the comments.

    You're right, "m" not "b" and it's now fixed (although you might have to reload the page in your browser to see it). Mea culpa.


  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:


    I agree whole-heartedly with the commentary....

    Nothing to add.. It was perfect... :D

    Update: Last night, I wrote that there was credible evidence that the Bank of Japan was intervening directly in the currency markets to support to Dollar against the Yen. About an hour ago, the BoJ confirmed it, and it is continuing now.

    Is that a good thing??? :D


  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:


    The above SHOULD read....


    I agree whole-heartedly with the commentary....

    Nothing to add.. It was perfect... :D


    Update: Last night, I wrote that there was credible evidence that the Bank of Japan was intervening directly in the currency markets to support to Dollar against the Yen. About an hour ago, the BoJ confirmed it, and it is continuing now.

    Is that a good thing??? :D

    My bust...


  12. [12] 
    Hawk Owl wrote:

    Sorry, I'm late to respond to this one. 1) Congrats - It seemed an excellent tour de force of your superb punning skills, Chris. 2.) It didn't pursue what I might have expected. . . how there seem to be no 'reporters" left who would do the leg-work, pursue the details (i.e., take Deep Throat's advice and "follow the money") to show this as one more Republican attack on Unions. Where's the reporter who'll pursue how much Delta contributed to campaigns of those who "speak out" about the pernicious Unions seeking to organize workers. This stuff just flies under the radar ~ hey! that pun was unintentional, but I'll leave it in ~ in modern news. Humph! Hawkowl

  13. [13] 
    Kevin wrote:


    This morning, I mailed a link to this piece to James Fallows at the Atlantic. He mailed me back thanking me and said he'd make use of it. When I then checked his site, he indeed cited you and quoted from your article!!! I'm so pleased with myself and hopeful this will attract some of his fans to your site. It is reassuring that a nobody from a ghost village in British Columbia can be listened to by someone I respect.

  14. [14] 
    Kevin wrote:
  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    Great job, Kevin!!! :D


  16. [16] 
    Kevin wrote:

    Thanks, Michale.

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Excellent work, Kevin!!!

  18. [18] 
    dsws wrote:

    Reading laws is ridiculously difficult. I just tried looking at the Budget Control Act (aka debt ceiling deal, aka S 365). I wanted to see what it actually says about whether tax increases can be counted toward the deficit reduction needed to avoid the triggers.

    On page 43, it says, "Unless a joint committee bill achieving an amount greater than $1,200,000,000,000 in deficit reduction as provided in section 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(II) of the Budget Control Act of 2011 is enacted by January 15, 2012, the discretionary spending limits listed in section 251(c) shall be revised, and discretionary appropriations and direct spending shall be reduced, as follows ..."

    So it refers the reader to both section 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(II) and section 251(c). But if you go to section 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(II) you get referred to subclause I, which refers you to 2 U.S.C. 639(a) and 601(f). The first of those refers you to sections 907 and 932. I haven't looked where those refer you to. I suspect that many provisions eventually go around in circles.

  19. [19] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    dsws -

    Keep digging. This is why bills are hundreds of pages long -- because they all (almost all, I should say) are amending previously-passed laws. Which makes for incredibly dense reading, and lots of looking up of citations. I spent last weekend reading Supreme Court decisions, which are actually one HECK of a lot more readable than bills.

    Have you noticed anything in there about what, exactly, is being cut? Or is it all just dollar targets for the later appropriations bills? I haven't heard a peep from the media about what -- exactly -- is being cut by the new law. Makes me think it's all just targets, with no actual specifics. The question I've been wondering: will corn subsidies be cut, or even eliminated? It was rumored that both parties had agreed to this, and the farmers were actually OK with it (corn prices are very high right now, I believe) -- but then, there were a LOT of rumors running around.

    Anyway, keep up the good work!


  20. [20] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Kevin -

    Thanks for the link, and thanks for passing it along to him. This is not only impressive (national publication) to me, but is doubly-so because he linked to rather than the HuffPost or Business Insider. Got to love those links directly back to these pages!

    Anyone who notices (or even prompts, as Kevin did), PLEASE let me know, as I don't keep up on who cites me as much as I should. My ego thanks you in advance.

    And, Kevin, you are far from a "nobody," at least as we're all concerned. I hear BC is spectacular, but have yet to make the trip myself...



  21. [21] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    CW [19]

    will corn subsidies be cut, or even eliminated? It was rumored that both parties had agreed to this, and the farmers were actually OK with it...

    I sure do hope so. In the era of corporate farming, it is a form of welfare whose time is past. Beyond that, it causes embarrassing hypocrisy on the Right. For example, the Bachmanns (or, as Bill Maher referred to them, the "Indoor Palins") receive a fair dose of farmer welfare. As does the guy in MO who placed billboards condemning the socialism in the country, paid for by the huge subsidy payments he receives. (Citation lacking, but well reported online)


    Hat tip to you for digging. Modest suggestion: even in the era of technology, there is no substitute for note cards which can be moved around, and strips of a torn yellow pad stuck in the pages of the USC to cut your way through to ... well, to who knows where. Good luck!

  22. [22] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    Oh for three in the quest for flawless markup. Damn!

  23. [23] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LeaningBlue -

    You're getting it... Ah, Grasshopper...


    You got most of the tags right, but forgot to include paragraph ("return" characters) which screwed up the formatting a bit.

    If you really want to get technical, you should include a "p" tag in front of every paragraph, and a "/p" tag at the end of it. But just hitting "return" does the same thing, so don't worry about it.

    The italics was a different problem -- one that I have all the time here in the comments, especially with bold. Your "intro" tag included "/" or the mark for "end tag" with the "i". Your closing tag also included the "/" (or else it would have screwed up everybody's comments).

    Anyway, I've fixed both. You'll get it, it just takes a week or so of using them regularly before it becomes automatic.



  24. [24] 
    dsws wrote:

    In other words, <b>bold text</b> will show up as bold text, and so on. If you get the / in the wrong place in trying to format your </b>bold text<b>, instead of getting bold text you're likely to turn the rest of the post into bold.

    On the debt-ceiling bill, what I saw sounded like targets for subsequent legislation or executive-branch policy-making, I'm not sure which, but with across-the-board cuts to categories if the targets aren't met. So Congress and the administration can

    Ok, I'm tired of bold

    So anyway, Congress and the administration can choose where the cuts land, or can let them automatically cut all spending in the category by whatever percentage the CBO thinks is necessary to meet the cuts. Or they can do some of each, protecting specific spending and letting the automatic cuts land at a higher percentage across the rest of the category.

    But that's not what I was looking for and I haven't gone back to look again, so don't put too much weight on it.

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