In personal letters delivered to each member of the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday. President Carter urged them to "speedy the pace" of their deliberations on a pending bill to airlines.
"Reducing regulation of the airline loosen the government's hold over the industry is the first major opportunity to meet our shared goal of eliminating outdated and excessive government regulation," the President wrote.
Committee member received the President's letters following their thenth mark-up session on the measure and in the midst of on-going discussions of its two most important and most controversial provisions: how much freedom the airlines will be given to make decisions on where to fly and what to charge. "There are many aspects of this complex reform legislation but the value which the ordinary citizen ultimately gains from our efforts depends on the Congress' resolution of these . . . basic issues," Carter told them.
He also laid out his personal views on those issues, indicating a preference for even more liberal provision issues, indicting a preference for even more liberal provisions than the committee is considering:
Pricing flexibility must be accompanied by strong provision airlines to expand their route systems automatically by a limited amount each year. "It is entry, or the realistic threat of it, that prevents price flexibility from being abused," he wrote, adding that he was in favor of "even greater" automatic entry than the committee is considering.
The protectionist mandate of the board must be changed to favor competition. "Anyone who is against new competition should have to show that it would be harmful to the public - not the other way around," he said, adding that he would favor instituting such a policy immediately instead of after a three-year transition period.
There is "simply no justification" for preventing new carriers from serving markets routes other airlines are not using, he said, arguing against a provision which would make it more difficult for new carriers to enter routes where a carrier holds unused authority than routes where there is no unused authority.
If the committee fails to include strong entry provisions in the bill, the President told them, he would not support a provision giving the airlines the ability to raise their prices within a limited zone without government interference and instead would make them justify each increase on the basis of rising costs as they must now.
Before yesterday's committee session, members met with Transportation Secretary Brock Adams for 45 minutes, a meeting Adams characterized afterwards as a "very good one.
"I indicated on behalf of the President that he is hopeful the committee and the Senate can act on the bill as soon as possible," he said. "I'm up here as the President's man to help do that."
He said he thought the committee members do want to see a bill move and are trying "to work their way through the problems," particularly on the pricing and entry provisions.
At the beginning of the mark-up, Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) expressed general support for the bill but would like to see entry provisions equalized for big and small carriers - the smaller carriers are given extra protection and greater freedom to expand in the transition period in the bill - and some labor protection provision wirtten in to protect the workers of a carrier that may not make it in a more competitive, less protected exvironment.
His concerns were echoed by some other members.