Monday, March 22, 2010

Additional Movement On Capitol Hill

Dems Push Wall Street Bill To Full Senate

Democrats sent a massive Wall Street regulation bill to the full Senate on a party line vote Monday after a temporary retreat by Republicans that still left the bill's chances for bipartisan passage in doubt.

In a surprise move, the Senate Banking Committee met briefly to approve the bill 13-10, but not before Republicans jettisoned more than 300 amendments they had planned that could have put their imprint on the bill. Senators had been expecting a long week of votes and debate, only to find themselves voting as they were still easing into their seats.

Despite a conciliatory tone struck by the committee's Democratic and Republican leaders, the development did nothing to mend the partisan divide over the legislation and adds even more uncertainty to Congress' ability to pass a sweeping rewrite of financial regulations this year.

The Senate would not take up the bill until April at the earliest.

In their opening remarks before the committee vote Monday, committee chairman Christopher Dodd, Conn, and the committee's top Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, chose to sound optimistic about the bill's prospects.

Senate Passes Bill To Update Air Traffic System

The Senate passed a bill Monday that would speed modernization of the nation's antiquated air traffic control system, a major source of airline delays.

The $34.5 billion bill to fund the Federal Aviation Administration through Sept. 30, 2011, also contains several measures to boost safety in response to last year's crash of a regional airliner near Buffalo, N.Y., which took 50 lives.

The bill requires key elements of FAA's NextGen program -- it replaces World War II-era radar technology with GPS technology -- to be in place at the nation's busiest airports by 2014.

The new system is projected to cost the FAA as much as $22 billion through 2025. Airlines would have to spend as much as $20 billion more to install equipment in their planes.

In the long term, the system is expected to save airlines money by allowing planes in crowded air corridors to take more direct routes and fly closer to each other without safety risks, reducing delays, saving energy and cutting down on pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions. Pilots will have real time information on the location of other aircraft.

The system is crucial to handling the expected growth in air traffic from about 700 million passengers in 2009 to the more than 1 billion annually by 2023.

The United States lags behind other nations in making the transition to the new technology, said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a key sponsor of the bill. Even Mongolia, he said, is further along.

The Congressional Register; FOX News; AP.

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