The impasse over the Federal Aviation Administration continued in Washington on Wednesday, with leaders from both parties blaming each other for the deadlock.
The Senate recessed on Tuesday without passing a temporary funding extension for the FAA approved by the House two weeks ago. The temporary funding extension would be the 21st the agency has operated under since 2007. According to The Los Angeles Times, the conflict is over a provision inserted into the temporary extension, but it also involves the contents of a larger, long-term FAA funding bill that is in the works:
House Republicans, led by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), inserted a provision in the latest extension that would cut rural airport subsidies in the home states of key Senate leaders, as a way to exert pressure on Senate Democrats to make concessions on key provisions of the larger bill. Among the key points of contention are the rural airport subsidies and a labor provision that would change the rules under which air and rail employees can unionize.
As a result of the inaction in Congress, thousands of FAA workers have been put on unpaid leave, and the agency has been unable to collect ticket fees worth $200 million a week, the Times reports. If nothing happens before Congress returns in September, President Obama told reporters on Wednesday, that could mean up to $1 billion in uncollected fees.
"That would be a billion dollars at a time when we’re worrying about how we pay for everything from education to Head Start," Obama said. "This is a lose-lose-lose situation that can be easily solved."
At a press conference Wednesday, Senate Democrats pointed their fingers at Republicans, according to The Washington Post:
Reid called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to “end this” by sending the Senate an FAA funding extension that does not cut money for the rural airport program. [Senator Jay] Rockefeller called the issue “embarrassingly easy” to solve.
“It’s shamefully easy. ... A clean bill of extension says you’ll talk, but you’re not going to be told what you’re going to talk about, and that’s point one,” he said. “It’s so easy. It’s so easy.”
But Boehner pushed back in his own statement, in which he said that the House "has done its job."
"All it will take to end this crisis is for the Senate to pass the House-approved FAA extension," Boehner said. "The only reason so many jobs are at stake is Senate Democratic Leaders chose to play politics rather than pass the House bill. I respect the fact that Senators have certain objections, but they have had two weeks to respond to the House bill and done nothing, leaving tens of thousands of workers in limbo. The House has done its job, and now it’s time for Senators to do theirs.”
Meanwhile, the White House said it was looking for ways to end the partial shutdown of the FAA, which has stretched into its 12th day, Reuters reports. Only air traffic controllers, mechanics and other employees needed to keep planes safe have been kept on the job, according to CNN.