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AG Formella Joins Effort to Hold Airlines Accountable

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella is joining 37 other state attorneys general in calling on Congress to give states the ability to hold airlines accountable when traveler complaints skyrocket. 

“From oversold flights to operational disruptions, too often we see airlines shifting their problems onto their passengers,” Formella said Wednesday.

Formella is part of a bipartisan group of attorneys general who signed a letter asking for the ability to enforce state and federal consular protection laws against airlines. The letter went to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). 

Currently, the United States Department of Transportation is responsible for handling airline complaints, but according to the letter from the attorneys general, the DOT is failing to protect the average airline customer.

Airlines should take notice that we expect the U.S. air travel system to provide safe, accessible, affordable, and reliable service to all travelers and the federal government should give attorneys general the authority to vigorously investigate and prosecute violations of the law that impact consumers. Customers should not have to deal with issues like delayed airline refunds, baggage fee charges for luggage that is not delivered at the end of a flight, or extra charges for parents to sit with their young children on a plane,” Formella said.

The letter states problems with airlines have been getting worse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Formella as well as his colleagues have been flooded with complaints.

While he is not mentioned, Biden’s secretary of transportation has been under fire for months over what critics say is his poor management of the airline travel crisis. Buttigieg, who ran for president in 2020 and is considered a likely future candidate, oversees the Department of Transportation (DOT). Over the summer, a group of Democrats including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)  called Buttigieg out for allowing airlines to engage in behavior that was “simply unacceptable.”

According to DOT data, complaints about airlines were up 35 percent in June over May. But the complaints recorded in June of this year are about 270 percent higher than the number of complaints in the June before the pandemic started.

“In June 2022, DOT received 5,862 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 34.9 percent from the 4,344 complaints received in May 2022 and up 269.6 percent from the 1,586 complaints received in pre-pandemic June 2019,” the report states. “For the first six months of 2022, the Department received 28,550 complaints, up 27.8 percent from the 22,336 filed during the first six months of 2021 and more than the entire year of 2019.”

In the first six months of 2022, 24 percent of domestic flights were delayed, and about 3.2 percent were canceled altogether. 

At the same time, airline ticket prices soared 34 percent year over year as inflation took its toll, though they have declined in recent weeks.

Formella was joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. 

NHGOP Tries to Paint Hassan, Shaheen As ‘Rubber Stamp’ For Democratic Party On Gorsuch Vote

The New Hampshire Republican Party and other conservative groups blasted the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators after they said they will vote against Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, when he comes up for a confirmation vote next week. The senators also said that he should not be confirmed without 60 votes in the Senate.

Both Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan announced their decisions Tuesday.

Shaheen said his record on women’s reproductive rights is “very troubling” and he has a “very alarming record” of putting corporate interests before employees’ rights.

“I cannot support a Supreme Court justice who would turn back the clock on women’s reproductive rights,” she said in a statement. “I was also disheartened by his evasive answers to questions regarding the Citizens United decision, which has dramatically increased the amount of secret money in politics.”

Hassan released her decision with a post on Medium, writing “Judge Gorsuch is not in the mainstream. He has not shown a commitment to protecting the rights of all Americans, and he does not seem to always fully consider the consequences his decisions have on real lives.”

Both senators agreed with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that Gorsuch should be required to reach a 60-vote threshold in order to be confirmed.

“When President Obama nominated Judge [Merrick] Garland, Republican leadership immediately blocked his nomination, preventing a hearing and a vote. Despite this unprecedented obstruction by the Republican majority, I remain committed to upholding the constitution’s instruction to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominations,” Shaheen said. “As Judge Gorsuch’s nomination comes to the floor, I will support a 60-vote threshold for approval, an appropriate high bar that has been met by seven of the eight current Supreme Court justices.”

The GOP Senate leadership refused to hold a hearing or vote for former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, last year. After Gorsuch’s hearings last week, Schumer said he will vote no on Trump’s nominee and asked other Democrats to join him in blocking an up-or-down, or direct “yay” or “nay,” vote on Gorsuch. To overcome that obstruction, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., needs 60 votes, or he could invoke the “nuclear option” and change Senate rules to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority vote.

There’s been some confusion over the language for confirming a Supreme Court nominee. By Democrats saying Gorsuch needs to be approved by a 60-vote threshold, the Washington Post’s fact checker gave them “Two Pinocchios,” calling it “slippery” and “misleading.” It’s not required for nominees to get 60 votes, since two of the current eight justices that sit on the bench did not meet that “standard.”

Despite that, Hassan also agreed with the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees.

NHGOP Chairman Jeanie Forrester said Shaheen was participating in “political partisanship” by denying Gorsuch’s confirmation.

“Sadly, Senator Shaheen would rather play obstructionist games and vote lock-step with liberal Democrats, like Chuck Schumer, than confirm a judge who has received high praise across the board,” Forrester said in a statement.

Forrester also accused Hassan of not being an “independent voice” in the Senate, despite promising to be that during the campaign last year.

“The truth is, she is serving her party’s leadership in Washington and its extreme left wing,” Forrester said. “This is pure politics.”

America Rising Squared (AR2), an arm of the Republican opposition research group America Rising, also attempted to paint Hassan as being a rubber stamp for the Democratic Party and just repeating what Shaheen does.

“Senator Hassan’s obstruction to the highly qualified Judge Gorsuch proves that not only is she willing to take marching orders from the loony liberals in her party, it is another reminder she is going to follow Shaheen’s every move,” said Nathan Brand, spokesman for AR2 and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte campaign staffer.

Despite the political backlash for their decision not to confirm Gorsuch, Shaheen, Hassan, and even Schumer have used different rhetoric in the past about Supreme Court nominees.

Hassan penned an op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader last year, calling on the Senate to hold a hearing and vote to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia

“As is often said, justice delayed is justice denied. A stalled Supreme Court will not move our country forward; it will only exacerbate the deep political divide and gridlock in Washington,” Hassan wrote.

There was also some confusion earlier this year on Shaheen’s comments about Gorsuch’s confirmation vote. On the Senate floor, she surprised many people when she said on February 7 that she would support an up-or-down vote.

“Unlike the Republican majority, I haven’t heard any Democrats saying we don’t think that Judge Gorsuch should get a hearing or that he should get an up-or-down vote,” she said. “Everybody I’ve talked to agrees he should get a hearing and an up-or-down vote.”

However, Ryan Nickel, Shaheen’s communications director, took to Twitter to correct the record saying she meant a cloture vote, or 60 “yeas” to be approved.

In a 2013 press conference, Schumer said Democrats prefer up-or-down votes, “no matter who’s in power.”

“We much prefer the risk of up-or-down votes in majority rule, than the risk of continued total obstruction. That is the bottom line, no matter who’s in power,” Schumer said.

Gorsuch is scheduled to receive a vote on April 7.

Follow Kyle on Twitter.