Biden administration warns of risks to air and rail safety if government shuts down

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned that a shutdown could hurt efforts to address air and rail safety at a press conference Wednesday, September 27, 2023.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned that a shutdown could hurt efforts to address air and rail safety at a press conference Wednesday, September 27, 2023. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Connect with state & local government leaders
 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also said that a shutdown and proposed GOP cuts could affect efforts to fight the fentanyl epidemic, as well as disaster relief operations.

Republican demands to cut the federal budget could undermine progress that the Biden administration is making on beefing up rail inspections, improving passenger air service and catching drugs at the border, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned Wednesday.

Much of the federal government could shut down Sunday if Congress cannot reach a spending deal by then. That could potentially disrupt the training of new air traffic controllers, which could lead to further disruption to an airline industry that has struggled to handle a crush of passengers in the wake of the pandemic, Buttigieg said.

But the transportation secretary stressed that he is also worried about the demands that conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives are making in order to avoid the shutdown.

Buttigieg lambasted proposed cuts that would come at a time when cities are grappling with a fentanyl crisis—overdoses from the drug are now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49—and when railroad safety has become a key concern for state and local governments ever since a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio.

“To absorb the 8% cut that they have proposed, we would have to totally freeze FAA hiring in operations and facilities. We’d be set back in modernizing systems like [a pilot notification] system that led to nationwide havoc with just a 90-minute national outage earlier this year,” Buttigieg said. “What’s especially galling is that we see some of the same elected officials who have responded even to weather delays by blaming the administration, now turning around and demanding that we cut resources for air traffic control.”

The proposed cuts would also impact railroad safety, an issue that lawmakers in both parties have zeroed in on since the February derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine. Congress has not yet passed legislation to impose stricter safety standards on freight carriers, but the Biden administration is working on rules that could accomplish many of the same objectives, Buttigieg noted.

“A Republican shutdown would stop our work on new safety rules,” he said, “all because some of the same people who rushed to get in front of the camera during the East Palestine derailment aftermath are now demanding extreme cuts to railroad safety inspections.”

“Their proposal would cut 4,000 safety inspections next year alone, meaning 11,000 miles of railroad track would not get inspected compared to the current levels,” Buttigieg added. “I don’t understand how anybody could claim to be serious about railroad safety and then turn around and defund our inspectors.”

The transportation secretary, who once served in the U.S. Navy Reserve, noted that 1.3 million active duty troops would have to work without pay while a shutdown lasted. So would air traffic controllers. The hold-up would hamper law enforcement, food safety and disaster relief operations, he said.

“Three hundred more pounds of fentanyl, 6,000 more pounds of methamphetamines and 50,000 more pounds of cocaine could be let into this country,” Buttigieg claimed.

The longer-term effects of the cuts the Republican holdouts want would translate into cuts to Meals on Wheels, veterans losing housing vouchers and cuts to education.

“There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown,” he said. “The consequences would be disruptive and dangerous, and so would the long-term consequences of paying the ransom to avoid it in the form of savage cuts to safety, infrastructure and other priorities.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.