WASHINGTON – Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Transportation and Maritime Security subcommittee ranking member, today delivered an opening statement at a hearing entitled, “Climbing Again: Stakeholder Views on Resuming Air Travel in the COVID-19 Era.”

Remarks as prepared below:

Thank you, Mr.  Chairman.  I am pleased that the Subcommittee is meeting today to perform oversight that is critical to both public health and our nation’s economy. 

I am disappointed, however, that Members are not allowed to meet in person.  While other committees have developed protocols to allow Members to safely meet in Committee spaces, ours has not.  This is not in keeping with the guidance of the House Rules Committee.  I hope that soon we can move forward in a manner that allows Members to be physically present for the work our constituents sent us here to do.

Turning to the topic of today’s hearing, I want to commend the men and women of TSA for continuing to do their jobs faithfully throughout this pandemic, even as their agency became the hardest hit in DHS.  More than 650 TSA personnel have tested positive for the virus, and tragically, 5 TSA personnel have succumbed to the virus.  Our thoughts and prayers are with their families.

The aviation industry is one of many sectors of the economy that have been devasted by the impacts of Covid-19.  At the pandemic’s peak, air travel dropped below 100,000 passengers per day—a level not seen in the history of TSA and far below the average 2.5 million travelers per day that TSA was screening prior to the virus’s outbreak.

As our nation slowly emerges from the worst of the pandemic, we are beginning to see slivers of hope that air travel is starting to increase.  With this recovery, TSA and transportation stakeholders are responding to new challenges in order to keep travelers safe and get America flying again.  This process presents stakeholders and this subcommittee with important questions, including: What will the TSA screening process look like?  What changes need to occur for passengers to be and feel safe? And what more can be done to protect passengers from a potential second wave of coronavirus or a future pandemic?

These questions and more continue to circulate within the aviation community, and it is my hope to hear feedback from our stakeholder panel today.  Having recently received a briefing from TSA’s Administrator Pekoske, I am eager to hear the stakeholders’ perspectives on what partnering with TSA looks like in response to a pandemic and how best to implement new solutions to passenger screening and safety.

The aviation sector is truly on the front lines in the fight to protect public health and ensure the free movement of people and goods that fuels America’s economy.  I thank each of the witnesses for appearing before the Subcommittee today, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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