The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to advance legislation that would ban cell-phone calls on planes. The bill is a sharp rebuke of a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission to lift its current prohibition on in-flight calls.
“As anyone who flies knows, airplane cabins are noisy, crowded, and confined,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, the committee chairman and author of the bill. “Subjecting passengers to potentially multiple, loud phone conversations in such close quarters would obviously diminish the comfort of any flight. It is just plain common sense that while on a plane with so many other people it will be in everyone’s best interest to keep phone calls out of the cabin.”
Shuster argued that it’s fine to allow passengers to text and browse the Web on their phones, but he’s opposed to calls that might disturb others.
Rep. Nick Rahall, the top Democrat on the committee, argued that in-flight phone use is a serious safety and comfort issue. He said that unlike an Amtrak train, it’s not feasible to have a “quiet car” on a plane where people can avoid noisy conversations. Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano noted she frequently has to fly back and forth to her district in California and said no one should be “bombarded with information you don’t want to know.”
The bill, H.R. 3676, would direct the Transportation Department to enact new regulations banning in-flight calls except for the flight crew or law-enforcement officers. Shuster argued that it’s not the FCC’s job to regulate calls on planes.
The FCC has a long-standing ban on in-flight calls based on technical concerns about interference with ground networks. In November, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced he would move ahead with a proposal to lift the ban, citing new technologies that can avoid the interference problems.
But Wheeler, who had just taken office a few weeks earlier, faced a swift public blowback from people afraid of getting stuck in a small space near an obnoxious conversation.
Wheeler clarified that he personally didn’t want to have a phone call near him on a plane, but he argued that if the technical basis for the FCC’s rules is gone, the agency should lift the ban. In December, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to begin accepting public comments on the proposal. But even Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted to move ahead, expressed concern about the plan and indicated she may not support any final action to allow in-flight calls.
Ahead of the FCC vote, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his department would explore enacting its own rules against in-flight calls.
Shuster’s bill now moves to the full House for consideration.
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander has introduced similar legislation in the upper chamber, but a spokesman for the Senate Commerce Committee did not comment on whether the panel plans to take up the bill.
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
"The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security. The bipartisan measure passed easily by a vote of 386-41, with nine Republicans and 32 Democrats voting in opposition. If the bill makes it through the Senate, it would be the first-ever reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since it was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." Among the provisions it contains is a mandate that the Senate confirm the Secret Service director. It also boosts funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative by $195 million per year.
In remarks scheduled to be delivered today at the American Federation of Teachers' summer conference, President Randi Weingarten "likens U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a climate-change denier" and "says the Trump administration's school choice plans are secretly intended to starve funding from public schools. She calls taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and the like 'only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.'" The pro-voucher Center for Education Reform said teachers should "consider inviting Weingarten’s resignation."