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Reagan Nat'l at Center of FAA Reauthorization Debate

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By Alice Ollstein

The U.S. Senate is considering the re-authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, and that's reopened a longstanding debate about air traffic at Reagan National Airport. What began as a mundane hearing on air transportation in the D.C. area devolved into a political dogfight between lawmakers and the agencies they oversee.

Members of Congress have long sought more West Coast flights out of Reagan National Airport.

But with FAA re-authorization pending, complete with more flights, federal aviation agencies are protesting.

They say it would hurt both Reagan and Dulles, overcrowding one and economically stunting the other.

Senators at the hearing vehemently disagreed, saying that times change, and our airports must adapt.

"Time doesn’t stand still. Time marches on," North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan says.

He chaired the hearing along with Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Both rejected the agencies recommendations to keep things as they are. Rockefeller went so far as to remind them who is in charge.

"Do you understand that you are under the direct jurisdiction of this committee? You wouldn’t even exist, I might say, if it hadn’t been for me. So you can thank me," Rockefeller said.

It is unclear whether the Senate will pass the FAA re-authorization bill this session.

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