“Hope is dim at the moment,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I guess we can always be hopeful, but the light of hope is about ready to flicker out.”
There was nothing about the demeanor of congressional leaders on Wednesday to suggest that, having taken the nation to the brink of one potential disaster, they were ready to rescue it from another crisis.
“The only reason so many jobs are at stake is Senate Democratic leaders chose to play politics rather than pass the House bill,” Boehner said.
“This is their modus operandi,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) fired back at Republicans. “Government by crisis that they make up, government by hostage-taking, government by threat.”
Senate Democrats insisted that the House pass a funding extension free of any additional provisions, saying privately that they if they agreed to pass the current extension, it would embolden the House to repeat the process when that bill expired next month.
House Republicans say the Senate should pass the extension and negotiate with greater purpose on resolving the long-term funding bills. The Democrats counter that the House has yet to appoint a conference committee to reconcile the bills, leaving things primarily to staff members.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said that congressional leaders “could take care of this in a second” because both chambers will meet in pro forma session in the coming weeks — meaning that while most lawmakers are back in their home states, leaders could act on an FAA bill.
But the rhetoric Wednesday did not suggest that option was in the offing.
Senate commerce committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), one of the key combatants, lamented Wednesday that the issue is “embarrassingly easy” to solve.
“It’s shamefully easy,” he said, calling for the House to pass a “clean” funding extension.
But Mica said that “Senate Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for this partial shutdown of FAA programs and airport projects.”
“There are no labor provisions in the House-passed extension,” Mica said. But in the long-term bills, “there are a number of unresolved issues in negotiations with the Senate, including the . . . labor provision. We have been willing to compromise, willing to negotiate, find common ground.”
He accused “powerful Senate Democrats” of “bludgeoning folks who disagree with them.”
Mica on Wednesday also heard the wrath of the man who sits next to him on the House transportation committee, ranking Democrat Nick J. Rahall II (W.Va.).
“House Republican leaders had the ability to end this shutdown but refused to budge from their stubborn ‘my way or the runway’ approach to negotiating,” Rahall said. “Instead of coming together to seek a solution, they attached a policy rider to the FAA extension bill to try to force the Senate to adopt its anti-worker agenda. Forcing the FAA to shut down to score a few political points for tea party extremists comes at a great cost to American jobs and our economy.”
Mike MacDonald, and FAA engineer who flew in from Boston to confront Congress, said he didn’t have to choose which party to blame.
“We blame the whole institution of Congress that has failed us,” he said.
Staff writers David Nakamura, Lisa Rein and Steve Vogel contributed to this report.