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Federal Eye
Posted at 09:15 AM ET, 07/22/2011

LaHood presses Congress on FAA bill, says furloughs loom

It’s deadline day on funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been scrambling to get congressional action.

The secretary has been issuing statements ringing with urgency and frustration, pressing for movement before a midnight deadline that he said could result in delayed construction projects and furloughed workers.

“Congress needs to do its work,” said a statement on the agency’s blog Thursday.

He’ll be on CNN Friday and he tweeted:

“Time is running out - less than 24 hours before 4,000 at FAA are furloughed and construction workers across America lose jobs.”

The 20th short-term extension on the FAA reauthorization bill expires at midnight, and Congress is battling over a legislation establishing a new one.

“Without swift action from Congress to pass an extension, the Federal Aviation Administration will be unable to move forward on important airport construction projects and thousands of FAA employees across the country will be immediately furloughed,” the secretary’s statement said Thursday.

“Congress needs to do its work. If they can’t pass a bill, new construction projects won’t begin. And construction workers will suffer.”

Air traffic controllers, LaHood assured, would remain on the job.

Almost 1,000 FAA works in the Washington region would face possible furloughs, Washington Post staff writer Ashley Halsey reported.

What’s the holdup?

The House approved a four-year plan of $60.1 billion and the Senate a two-year bill at a cost of $34.5 billion. But, Halsey reports, other real sticking points are: federal subsidies for flights to rural airports; the number of flights at Washington’s Reagan National Airport and the House bill’s inclusion of anti-union restrictions.

Unions such as the Association of Flight Attendants -CWA have weighed in as well, calling for action on the measure and criticizing the labor provisions in the House bill.

“Holding up this essential legislation in order to rob aviation workers of democracy and fair elections is shameful,” said Veda Shook, AFA International President. “Under the worker representation election rules that Republican lawmakers are attempting to make law, none of the lawmakers themselves would have garnered enough votes to take office.”

Without a full year’s extension on funding, LaHood said, “FAA will be unable to move forward on more than $600 million in airport construction projects that include good paying jobs for local communities across the country.”

Added the secretary in the statement on the department blog, “Congress has already passed twenty short-term extensions to the FAA’s reauthorization--putting a burden on our employees and creating enormous uncertainty for states and airports across the country. This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”

By Marcia Davis  |  09:15 AM ET, 07/22/2011

 
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