Rep. John Lewis Pushes for Congressional Scrutiny of Delta Takeover
Late last night after a series of votes were taken on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. John Lewis led a special order debate on the proposed hostile takeover of Delta Airlines by U.S. Airways. Reps. David Scott (D-GA), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), and Rob Bishop (R-UT) contributed to the discussion. During his remarks, Congressman Lewis talked about the need for close congressional inspection of this move by U.S. Airways.
"I...encourage the Justice Department," said Rep. Lewis, "and the House Judiciary Committee to review this takeover with a fine-toothed comb so we can make sure it serves the best interests of the American people....I think freedom in the marketplace is important, but when a bad business deal like this one threatens the economies of so many communities and the lives of so many citizens, I think members of Congress must take notice. I think we must step in and take a long hard look at the economic impact of this kind of hostile takeover."
Rep. Lewis has spoken to the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Jim Oberstar (D-MN) and other members of the Georgia delegation have spoken to Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to raise their concerns about this merger. In preliminary conversations with Chairman Oberstar, Rep. Lewis senses deep concern from him about the U.S. Airways proposals. They have discussed the possibility of holding congressional hearings on the hostile takeover.
Rep. Lewis and other members of the House on both sides of the aisle whom he has spoken to are very concerned about the financial viability of U.S. Airways. Because it has not been able to fully integrate its last merger with America West, and it is also currently involved in bankruptcy proceedings that it has not been able to bring to a close, Rep. Lewis believes this proposal represents a bad deal across the board for Delta. At stake are the carefully crafted agreements that Delta employees, pilots, executives, and creditors have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to create. They will enable Delta to emerge from bankruptcy within a few months as a viable, independent institution. The U.S. Airways merger will add a new $2 billion of debt to the equation and could mire the new company in a new bankruptcy proceeding. Inevitably, services to mid-sized cities like Cincinnati, Augusta, Philadelphia, and Salt Lake City, among many others, would be cut.
"Even though US Airways can't seem to manage its own merger," said Rep. Lewis, "it is hoping and praying that it can take advantage of the hard work and tough sacrifices the good people of Delta have already made so that it can survive. Why must the American people pay, why must the employees pay, why must travelers pay when American businesses can't get their house in order? This is not a win-win situation. It is a win for US Airways and an incredible risk for Delta Airlines. It is a risk for the people of Atlanta, a risk for Hartsfeld-Jackson Airport, the largest airport in the world. It is a risk for the state of Georgia and thousands of American citizens."