McConnell 2013
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Reuters

The U.S. Senate, which is close to passing a continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of 2013 and avert a government shutdown, hit a snag on Tuesday, just one week before the current stop-gap measure expires.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is delaying a full Senate vote on the stop-gap spending bill to keep the government’s lights on by insisting on a full 60 hours of debate, because he didn’t get to discuss his amendment to keep air traffic control towers open in rural areas.

Moran’s amendment calls for $50 million to be found elsewhere in Federal Aviation Administration funds to prevent planned cuts to control towers for more than 180 airports. That includes about seven towers in Kansas.

The senator argues that the cuts from sequestration will “put the flying public at risk, impair access to rural areas, jeopardize national and civil security missions, and cost jobs.”

“I am strongly opposed to the FAA’s plan to target air traffic control towers across the country, including the 189 towers that are included in the Contract Tower Program,” Moran said in a statement last week, adding that his amendment is meant to protect contract towers. “I am committed to aviation in rural America and know firsthand the importance of maintaining commercial air service in communities across Kansas. I am also frustrated that the administration has decided to once again to play politics that could negatively impact our state’s economic future.”

If a bill isn’t passed by March 27, the government could shut down as funding appropriations to the agencies expire.

The senator’s action doesn’t mean the bill, which is backed by Republicans, won’t get final approval. It just means that the Senate wouldn’t be able to move forward until around Thursday. Democrats were hoping to get an approval vote on Tuesday.

Senators are trying to cut down the more than 90 amendments pending on the fiscal 2013 measure.

“It is in the interest of all senators that we move forward quickly with this important legislation,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on Monday. “The House of Representatives awaits our action. There is a great deal to do this week on the other side of the Capitol as well. Also, the more time the Senate spends on the continuing resolution, the less time we will have later this week to vote on amendments to the budget resolution.”

Reid told senators that with all the budget talks on Capitol Hill they are in for a busy week. He has threatened to keep lawmakers working through their Easter recess.

“Senators should expect several long nights and late votes,” Reid said. “And we will stay as long as it takes to complete work on both the continuing resolution and the budget resolution – even if that means working into the weekend and the Easter/Passover recess. But with a little cooperation from senators on both sides we can finish this work.”