What's $16.5 million among adversaries? Enough to ground the FAA.
Republicans and Democrats are at it again. A dispute over air service subsidies for 13 rural communities has left the FAA without a funding extension. Thousands of workers are affected.
Don't look now, but there's another budget impasse that a sharply divided Congress can't seem to resolve.Skip to next paragraph
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This one doesn't involve the whole government, but it has resulted in a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration during the height of summer vacation season.
And the disagreement pits House Republicans who want to cut some subsidies for rural air service, and Senate Democrats who don't. Both sides say they want to extend the FAA's funding authority, but that won't happen unless they can settle the spat.
The subsidies at stake total just $16.5 million. In relation to the whole federal budget, that's barely even pocket change. But Democrats say the money makes a difference in the 13 affected communities.
Congress's latest funding extension for the FAA expired on July 22. Since then vital operations such as air-traffic control have continued, but dozens of airport modernization projects have been put on hold nationwide. Some 4,000 agency workers have been furloughed and tens of thousands of construction workers have been sidelined, the agency estimates.
Airline taxes that normally provide revenue are going uncollected, costing the government $200 million in recent days.
President Obama urged lawmakers to end the partial shutdown quickly.
"My expectation, and I think the American people's expectation, is that this gets resolved by the end of this week," he said.
Until Wednesday, the partial shutdown at the FAA has been overshadowed by the larger budget-related question of whether Congress would agree on a plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling before the government was pushed toward default on some of its obligations.
After an arduous effort ended in a deficit-cutting accord, lawmakers boarded their favored long-distance transportation devices – known to the FAA and others as airplanes – and left for an August vacation.
“Members of Congress should not get on a plane to fly home for vacation without passing an FAA bill and putting thousands of people back to work,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
Mr. LaHood, a Texas Republican, criticized members of Congress from both parties, arguing that on Americans' top concern of job creation the lawmakers "talk the talk, but they have not walked the walk."
House Speaker John Boehner, in a statement Wednesday, blamed the Senate for failing to take action after the House passed its FAA funding bill.