The Senate’s approval Friday of a six-week reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration sent 4,000 furloughed employees back to work -- and set the stage for a battle over the agency’s funding when Congress returns to Washington in the fall.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that he was “pleased” the Senate approved the House-passed FAA extension bill, which ended the two-week partial shutdown of the agency.
“Moving forward,” Boehner said, “it’s time for Senate Democrats to get serious about resolving the remaining FAA issues, complete work on a long-term bill that can be signed into law, and help this troubled economy.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also hailed the Senate move on Friday. But he then pointed a finger at the other chamber, charging that House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) was “threatening to force these 74,000 [FAA workers and contractors] out of their jobs again when this extension expires on September 16.
“The hard-working men and women affected by this standoff should never have been furloughed in the first place,” Reid said. “They were out of work for two weeks because Republicans were holding their jobs hostage to try and jam through a favor for the CEO of one airline.”
The stopgap reauthorization means that some 4,000 furloughed workers and tens of thousands of contractors may go back to work as soon as Monday and that the government will be able to collect $30 million a day in airline ticket taxes. But the agreement does not address the underlying dispute between the parties over a provision in the longer-term FAA bill that would restrict airline workers’ collective-bargaining rights.When the Senate returns to Washington on Sept. 6 – followed by the House on Sept. 7 – the parties will be back where they started on the FAA impasse.
Both chambers are expected to be in session through Sept. 23. If the issue is not resolved by then, Congress could find itself in the same predicament as before: leaving Washington for a brief recess and leaving FAA workers in the lurch.