An intraparty legislative fight is already shaping up this fall over President Trump's desire to privatize the country's air traffic control system.
Trump held an elaborate ceremony last week promoting the privatization of the country's air traffic control system, touting that it would make travel easier and cheaper for most Americans. The plan involves creating a nonprofit organization to run air traffic control at the nation's airports, taking it away from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The plan mostly follows a plan put forward by Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Privatizing air traffic control systems has been a major priority for Shuster for years, and he's planning to include it in a bill to reauthorize the FAA. That bill must be done by Sept. 20.
"The current FAA authorization expires on September 30th, making an FAA bill a must-pass piece of legislation," said Justin Harclerode, spokesman for the committee. "Chairman Shuster plans to introduce a comprehensive FAA authorization and reform bill, that will include this key reform, with that September 30th deadline in mind."
But air traffic control privatization is already facing resistance from an influential senator inside Shuster's party.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., is a top member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which will be the Senate committee responsible for FAA reauthorization. In the wake of President Trump's White House speech, Inhofe told Politico he's not looking to include air traffic control privatization in the FAA reauthorization bill.
"FAA reauthorization has a deadline," he said. "We've attempted to take things that are controversial out of the FAA reauthorization."
He added, "I don't think that's going to be a part of the reauthorization because it has become very controversial," Inhofe said. "I think right now they're just in the vote-counting stage."
Inhofe is right that the proposal is controversial. The measure was included in an FAA reauthorization bill in the last congressional session by Shuster, but was pulled in order to get the bill through Congress. The plan has the support of major airlines and the air traffic control workers' union, but faces opposition from consumer advocate groups.
While that attempt failed, it gives some clues as to what the reform would look like.
Under Shuster's proposal, the private company would be chartered by Congress and have an 11-member board of directors.
The board would be made up of four people appointed by major airlines, two appointed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, one appointed by the Airline Pilots Association International union, one appointed by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, two at-large appointees and the CEO of the corporation, who would be appointed by the board.
Privatizing the air traffic control system would hasten the switch to a GPS-based system, which is already happening through the NextGen reforms to the air traffic control system being implemented by the FAA through 2025. Moving to a GPS-based system allows for straighter flight paths and simpler elevation levels that will shrink fuel costs and flight times, the Trump administration argues.
Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement he's in favor of the plan to privatize air traffic control in order to hasten those changes. However, he didn't go so far as to put a deadline on the proposal.
"The Federal Aviation Administration's effort to improve air travel safety and efficiency by modernizing air traffic control has been hindered by bureaucratic obstacles and poor planning," Thune said. "While we've spent billions on upgrades, independent assessments have warned that the promised benefits for the flying public may never be realized if we continue on under the status quo.
"As we move forward in discussing potential reforms, getting a bill to President Trump's desk will require bipartisan support as well as a consensus among the aviation community on a way forward."
Trump's influence may be needed to break through this intraparty fight. Harclerode said Trump has already advanced air traffic control privatization simply by using the White House bully pulpit to talk about the proposal.
"The president's support and leadership is important, without a doubt," he wrote in an email.
"Making this issue a priority calls more attention to the fact that our outdated, inefficient aviation system still utilizes technology from the middle of the last century, that our air traffic controllers use paper strips to manage the flow of air traffic, and that the federal government has wasted billions and billions of taxpayer dollars trying to modernize the system for 30 years."
Some high-powered backers are already lining up behind the proposal in a push to get it done by the end of the fiscal year.
Americans for Prosperity, the primary advocacy group run by the Koch brothers, announced their plan to work on Trump's behalf to push privatization. Vice President of External Affairs Christine Harbin said the proposal would help prevent unnecessary spending.
"We look forward to working constructively with the Trump administration and on Capitol Hill to balance the need to protect taxpayers while meeting the country's infrastructure needs," she said in a statement.
"This includes pursuing modernization and privatization where possible, as seen in today's ATC announcement. Working together, we can prevent past mistakes like the wasteful spending of the Obama stimulus and find opportunities to roll back the red tape that delays projects and drives up costs."
The Alliance for Aviation Across America, an advocacy group for rural community airports and small business based on air travel, is among the groups that have lined up against the proposal.
Selena Shilad, executive director of the group, said Trump's plan would be a shock to local communities that depend on rural airports.
"The White House plan to privatize the air traffic control system would give control over this infrastructure to private stakeholders and the commercial airlines, directly harming consumers and smaller communities," she said, "who are already at the mercy of a large airline conglomerate that leaves them with fewer choices, terrible and degrading treatment on flights, and a stream of constant delays and travel headaches that are the airlines' own fault."