As the U.S. Congress’ month-long recess begins, lawmakers failed to come up with some resolution to the week and a half old furlough of 4,000 FAA employees and the halt of all federally-funded airport projects. At one point yesterday, according to one source, the Democrats seem ready to give in to Rep. Mica’s demands that Essential Air Service funding be scrapped so that the agency can be funded through mid-September. However, later in the day, Sen. Harry Reid stated that the deal with the House Republicans has fallen through, commenting:
Republicans are playing reckless games with airline safety. We should not let ideology interfere with making sure that Americans’ air travel runs as smoothly and safely as possible.
Thus, while members of Congress act like petulant children, complaining about falling revenues, the FAA, temporarily stripped of its ability to collect taxes, loses an average $30 million a day it normally takes in on airline ticket sales. And this will continue until Congress gets back to work in September.
Even an agreement on the continuing resolution will not bring any closure on getting the FAA Reauthorization Act passed and into law. Congress has failed to pass a bill funding the FAA for 4 years, passing 20 “temporary” extensions in the interim. Moreover, because the FAA has not received new funding since 2007, it cannot begin new programs that would improve efficiency and safety, including a much needed program to upgrade air traffic systems across the United States.
So what is holding up the FAA Reauthorization? Union rules. The National Mediation Board ruled last year that airline and railroad employees should be allowed to form a union by a simple majority of those voting. Under the old rule, however, workers who didn’t vote were treated as “no” votes. As one could guess after the uprisings in Wisconsin and elsewhere regarding union rights, this is an issue that both sides feel compelled to fight to the bitter end.
As a result, we all suffer.
Obama Team Tries to Break FAA Impasse, David Jackson, USA Today, August 1, 2011.
FAA shutdown to continue in partisan standoff as Congress leaves, costing jobs, tax revenue, Associated Press, August 2, 2011.
U.S. Senate fails to end partial FAA shutdown, Reuters, August 2, 2011.