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"Washington remains torn on FAA shutdown"


 
Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Washington remains torn on FAA shutdown
By Jennifer Liberto
Cable News Network (CNN)


WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- Lawmakers on Wednesday appeared far from a deal to
extend funding authority for the Federal Aviation Administration -- leaving
some 4,000 federal employees and thousands more construction and support
staff workers off the job.

The Senate went on break Tuesday without approving what would have been the
21st short-term funding extension for the FAA. The Republicans passed that
extension, but it includes some changes to FAA programs to which Democrats
object.

The FAA has been partially shut down for more than a week, with only air
traffic controllers, mechanics and those integral to keeping planes flying
safely on the job.

President Obama weighed in on Wednesday, calling the impasse "a
lose-lose-lose situation" that could be "easily solved," something he
expects to happen before the end of the week.

"Congress has decided to play some politics with it and as a consequence
they left town without getting this extension done," Obama said.

In a press conference Wednesday, top Democrats blamed Republicans for the
work stoppage. Republicans, in turn, have blamed Democrats.

"We're telling Speaker (John) Boehner: Stop this foolishness. We're not
going to be held hostage, like you did with the debt ceiling process," said
Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"This issue has nothing to do with essential air services and everything to
do with a labor dispute between airlines and the American worker," he added.

But John Mica, the Florida Republican who chairs the House Transportation
committee, said Senate Democrats have only themselves to blame.

"Senate Democrats had a House-passed FAA extension before them for two weeks
but chose to do nothing," Mica said.

Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that causes of the stalemate are
twofold. Of immediate concern is language in Mica's proposal that would
reduce or kill subsidies to rural airports, specifically targeting airports
in Nevada, Montana and New Mexico -- three states with Democratic senators.

But a bigger dispute loomed behind the scenes, in a bill that would provide
funding for the FAA for several years. That bill would make it easier for
airline employees to unionize. Democrats generally have supported
unionization efforts, while Republicans have generally opposed them.

Democratic Senators, including Charles Schumer of New York and Barbara Boxer
of California, said Democrats don't want to give in to Republican demands
that go beyond funding the FAA, especially after giving in on the issue of
raising the limit on U.S. borrowing while agreeing to massive spending cuts.

Aviation workers deal with politics-induced furloughs

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood spoke at the White House briefing on
Tuesday and urged lawmakers to return to Capitol Hill to figure out a deal.

"Leave your vacations just for a couple of hours. Come back Congress. Help
your friends and neighbors get back to work," said LaHood, a former
Republican congressman serving in the Obama administration. "They are
without paychecks. They don't know at the end of the day whether they are
going to be able to make their next mortgage payment, car payment."

"This is why people shake their heads when they think about Congress,"
LaHood said.

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