More than two dozen members of the U.S. House from Texas signed on to a letter that bears striking resemblance to one penned by a United Airlines lobbyist, Politico reported Monday.
The July 28 letter – signed by 29 of the 36 Texans in the U.S. House – calls on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to “take swift and resolute action” against Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines over "anticompetitive practices." The letter specifically describes government subsidies from the United Arab Emirartes and Qatar as a "market distortion" undermining the U.S. airline industry.
One of the signees, U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, said in a statement to Politico that there was no connection between the Texas lawmakers’ letter and a letter drafted by United lobbyist Adam Hepburn. Green instead said that he and U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, wrote the letter together “in a bipartisan effort because the Texas delegation is committed to protecting well-paying jobs in our home state.”
United Airlines is based in Chicago but counts Houston as one of its hubs. Two other major airlines – American Airlines and Southwest Airlines – are based in North Texas.
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The Texas delegation’s letter, while not identical to the United version, appears to take several sentences and phrases from it verbatim, including “President [Donald] Trump has repeatedly stated that the United States will not tolerate unfair, subsidized foreign competition.” The letters are also similar in structure and cite many of the same statistics.
The report comes a month after Politico reported that most members of Illinois’ congressional delegation signed onto a letter “almost identical” to the letter Hepburn wrote on behalf of United. A spokesman for one Illinois congressman confirmed that the lawmaker had collaborated with the airline.
All 11 Texas Democrats in the U.S. House signed the letter. All but seven of the 25 Texas Republicans in the U.S. House signed the letter. The seven who did not were Jodey Arrington of Lubbock, Mike Conaway of Midland, John Culberson of Houston, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Louie Gohmert of Tyler, Will Hurd of Helotes and Randy Weber of Friendswood.
Requests for comment from United Airlines and Marchant’s office were not immediately returned.
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