The U.S. Debt Deal crisis has claimed another casualty: the U.S. air transportation system -- Congress has left town without funding a key Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) budget
President Barack Obama and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood are urging Congressional lawmakers to return to Washington to end an impasse that has forced the FAA to furlough 4,000 workers.
Congress, including the Republican-led U.S. House failed to extend the FAA's funding authority, which expired Jul 22. As a result, 70,000 construction and related workers were idled and 4,000 FAA employees were furloughed.
The furlough is also preventing the FAA from collection $28.6 million a day in aviation taxes.
"Every day this goes on, we fall further behind. We need our 4,000 FAA employees and tens of thousands of construction workers back on the job so we can get critical projects moving again while it's still construction season. Congress must act quickly before leaving for the August recess," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said, in a statement.
Congress could use a parliamentary procedure called "unanimous consent" to extend the FAA's funding without having return to Washington.
Feuding Democrats and Republicans, again
However, House Republicans accused the White House and Democrats of playing politics. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement that Senate Democrats are playing politics and that "all it will take to end this crisis is for the Senate to pass the House-approved FAA extension" Bloomberg News reported.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, countered that Senate Republicans are using the issue of aid to small airports as "subterfuge" to force the Senate to accept a labor provision in the House's long-term FAA authorization bill that would make it harder for airline employees to win union representation.
Political/Public Policy Analysis: This is another serious mistake by Congress, primarily due to House Republican intransigence. The GOP wants to make it harder for airline employees to win union representation -- another back-door attempt by the GOP to undermine unions, and Senate Democrats will not let it occur. Unfortunately the stalemate is jeopardizing important airport work -- 200 airport construction projects worth $11 billion have been idled. Congress needs to reverse this travesty to ensure that airport work/renovations proceed in a timely fashion.