(The Center Square) – Eighty-three House Republicans voted against a measure that would have required commercial airlines receiving federal money to reinstate pilots who were fired for not complying with a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate since ruled illegal.
Among them were eight Republicans who opposed the measure from Texas, a state that has consistently fought federal mandates. A federal judge in Texas was the first to rule the Biden administration’s federal vaccine mandate was illegal, blocking it in January 2022. The case went to the Supreme Court, which also ruled against the mandate.
As Congress has debated the effectiveness of federal mandates this week, it’s also considered amendments to the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, which reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and promotes hiring more pilots and air traffic controllers during a national shortage. It also bans the FAA from mandating that passengers be required to wear masks or get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to fly.
U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, R-Illinois, filed an amendment to the bill designed to reinstate pilots who were fired for not complying with the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate. It required commercial airlines receiving federal money and engaged in federal contracts that terminated pilots under the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate to offer to reinstate them.
The amendment failed by a vote of 294-141; 83 Republicans voted with all Democrats to defeat it.
While many Texas Republican leaders have stood apart from those in blue states opposing mandates, and the Republican-controlled Texas legislature banned local governments from imposing vaccine and mask mandates, eight of 25 Republicans in Texas’ Congressional delegation opposed Miller’s amendment.
All 13 Texas Democrats voted against it. Joining them were seven Republicans voting no: Reps. Jodey Arrington, John Carter, Monica De La Cruz, Jake Ellzey, Tony Gonzales, Michael McCaul, and Randy Weber. Rep. Kay Granger voted “not present.”
Miller tweeted that she filed the amendment “to reinstate the pilots who were fired by the illegal & unconstitutional COVID vax mandate. We have a pilot shortage because of the chaos Biden caused with his vax mandates. I will never stop fighting the Swamp on this!”
According to a 2022 CBS News report, U.S. airlines had hoped to add 13,000 pilots last year while the mandate was still being challenged in court. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said at the time, “The pilot shortage for the industry is real and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plan because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five plus years.”
This year, the gap between supply and demand for U.S. pilots increased to 17,000 unfilled positions, or 15% of the workforce, The Berkshire Eagle reported. “Nearly 50 percent of the commercial airline workforce will retire in the next 15 years,” it reports. “Unless things change, prospects are dim that supply and demand for this vital workforce can come back into balance any time soon.”