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FAA Shutdown: Deal reached to end shutdown

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the deal Thursday afternoon, saying it would put 74,000 transportation and construction workers back to work.

"This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain," said Reid, D-Nev. "But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that."

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma won't attempt to block passage of the bill when it comes up on Friday, spokesman John Hart said. Coburn blocked several attempts by Democrats to pass an extension bill without the subsidy cuts.

The partisan standoff that led to the shutdown began last month when Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, signaled his intention to attach the subsidy cuts to a bill to extend the FAA's operating authority through mid-September. The agency has been operating under a series of 20 short-term extensions since 2007, when the last long-term FAA funding bill expired.

Senate Democrats complained that Republicans were breaking with precedent by using an extension bill to enact policy changes that hadn't been agreed upon. Even Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas called the measure a "procedural hand grenade." Senators refused to pass the House bill, saying to do so would be giving into legislative blackmail and inviting Republicans to up the ante on the next extension bill.

Obama, who had scolded Congress on Wednesday for not solving the standoff, expressed relief.

"I'm pleased that leaders in Congress are working together to break the impasse involving the FAA so that tens of thousands of construction workers and others can go back to work," Obama said in a statement.

Both the House and Senate passed long-term funding bills for the FAA earlier this year, but negotiations on resolving differences and finalizing those bills are stalemated. The biggest holdup is a labor provision in the House long-term bill. Republicans want to overturn a National Mediation Board rule approved last year that allows airline and railroad employees to form a union by a simple majority of those voting. Under the old rule, workers who didn't vote were treated as "no" votes.

"The House has made it clear that the anti-worker piece is a priority for them and they also put us on notice that they don't intend to give in," said Vince Morris, a spokesman for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of a committee that oversees FAA. "So we are bracing for a new fight in September."

Communities targeted for the proposed air service subsidy cuts are Morgantown, W.Va.; Athens, Ga.; Glendive, Mont.; Alamogordo, N.M.; Ely, Nev.; Jamestown, N.Y.; Bradford, Pa.; Hagerstown, Md.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Johnstown, Pa.; Franklin/Oil City, Pa.; Lancaster, Pa.; and Jackson, Tenn.

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