FAA Furloughs 4,000 Workers After Congress Fails To Agree On Funding

The Federal Aviation Administration has put 4,000 workers on furlough after the House and Senate failed to come to an agreement on how to fund the agency:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) partially shut down Saturday, as Congress failed to reauthorize the agency’s funding.

“I’m very disappointed that Congress adjourned today without passing a clean extension of the FAA bill,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a Friday statement. “Because of their inaction, states and airports won’t be able to work on their construction projects, and too many people will have to go without a paycheck. This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”

About 4,000 FAA employees are now furloughed without pay, according to the FAA, as the Senate on Friday failed to approve a controversial House-passed extension of taxes that help fund the FAA.

“The FAA employees who will be furloughed perform critical work for our nation’s aviation system and our economy,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. “These are real people with families who do not deserve to be put out of work during these tough economic times.”

LaHood has stressed that essential personnel related to airport and air safety would not be cut. “I want to reassure the flying public that, during this period, safety will not be compromised,” he said earlier.

This isn’t related to the ongoing debt negotiations fiasco, but it is a symptom of the same inability of the parties, and the House and the Senate, to work together even on seemingly everyday issues of governance:

“It is unbelievable that after the House passed the 21st FAA extension, the Senate departed Washington and left the FAA and many of its employees behind,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said. “In light of the nation’s pending financial disaster and soaring deficits, they couldn’t find a way to cut even a few million dollars by accepting this minor request to reduce outlandish subsidies.”

But  Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) accused House Republicans of playing politics with the bill.

“The refusal by the House to extend FAA’s funding authorities is a disservice to the American public and the aviation industry,” Rockefeller said. “I am disappointed and stunned by their failure.  We had negotiated in good faith for four months, but when senior members of the House leadership admitted that they would try to gain political ‘leverage’ over the Senate, they effectively turned the aviation system into a political prop.”

The whole dispute seems to boil down to a dispute over subsidies to small airports in Montana, Nevada and New Mexico where ticket prices are subsidized at the price of more than $1,000 per ticket. Opponents take the position that subsidies should be ended for airports that are within 90 miles of a medium or large-sized airport. The Senate bill apparently contains similar language, though, so it’s unclear exactly what the dispute is really all about.

Nonetheless, one has to wonder, if Congress cannot reach agreement on this seemingly minor dispute, how are they going to be able to come to a fiscal deal of any kind by August 2nd?

 

FILED UNDER: Congress, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Al Dente says:

    This budget crisis comes at a terrible time, when the FAA is investigating the use of baboons to repair jet engines:
    http://spnheadlines.blogspot.com/2010/02/faa-launches-formal-investigation-into_13.html

  2. WR says:

    Once again, “both sides are at fault,” per Doug.

    But both sides aren’t at fault, and it has nothing to do with funding rural airports. The Republicans won’t fund the FAA unless the bill includes a piece that destroys unions. Specifically, they are demanding that in any union certification election (relating to the FAA), anyone who doesn’t vote will be counted as a no. It’s an outrageous violation of basic democratic principles… and the Rs will happily shut down the FAA and throw thousands of people out of work until they get their way.

    But “both sides are at fault.” Because the Rs insist on blackmail, and the Ds insist on not giving in to it.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    What WR said. This is getting to be transparent bullshit. It’s not “the parties.” It’s the Republican Party.

  4. mantis says:

    Nonetheless, one has to wonder, if Congress cannot reach agreement on this seemingly minor dispute, how are they going to be able to come to a fiscal deal of any kind by August 2nd?

    They don’t need a fiscal deal. They could just raise the debt ceiling. But Republicans want to hold the economy hostage.

  5. lunaticllama says:

    @mantis: Just to clarify: there is no “crisis.” Any day Congress could raise the debt ceiling.

    With regards to this post, the FAA is being shut down because of an adverse ruling by the National Mediation Board (part of the Railroad Labor Act), which Republicans want to overturn because the ruling makes it easier to allow FedEx employees to unionize. Interestingly, UPS is governed by the National Labor Relations Board (they don’t fall under the Railroad Labor Act sort of by an accident of history), and the NMB’s ruling would simply harmonize union policies between the NMB and NLRB. Basically, Republicans are going to the mats to help FedEx operate under different labor standards than a big competitor of theirs. I would think Doug, of all people, would want, you know, actually competitive markets where companies compete with each in other in the provision of goods and services, instead of relying on the regulatory protection from the state.

  6. sam says:

    @lunaticllama:

    I would think Doug, of all people, would want, you know, actually competitive markets where companies compete with each in other in the provision of goods and services, instead of relying on the regulatory protection from the state.

    You’d think.

  7. mantis says:

    Just to clarify: there is no “crisis.”

    There’s no debt crisis, but there is hostage crisis. Republicans have a gun to all our heads.

    I would think Doug, of all people, would want, you know, actually competitive markets where companies compete with each in other in the provision of goods and services, instead of relying on the regulatory protection from the state.

    Government giving an unfair advantage to one company is bad, unless that company is favored by Republicans. Then you just ignore it.

  8. Gustopher says:

    Why are air traffic controllers considered “essential”? It’s not national security.

    Obama should have furloughed them too — a couple of days of no air travel, and the Republicans would have given him the clean reauthorization for the FAA.

    And, with only a few more days before the Republicans force a default, it wouldn’t hurt the situation there to smack them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.