Senate leaders on Thursday announced a deal to end temporarily the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, reactivating some 74,000 jobs and halting the Treasury’s loss of $30 million a day in uncollected airline taxes.
The FAA deal capped a week of bipartisan breakthroughs, including an end to the debt-limit crisis on Aug. 2 and a path forward on long-stalled trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama on Aug. 3.
“I’m pleased that leaders in Congress are working together to break the impasse involving the FAA so that tens of thousands of construction workers and others can go back to work,” said President Obama in a statement. “We can’t afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery.”
Funding for the FAA expired on July 23, following nearly four years of short-term extensions. Both the House and the Senate have passed long-term FAA funding bills that clashed on partisan and parochial issues, such as rules that make it tougher to organize unions and subsidies to rural airports.
Since members of the House have already left town, the deal involves the Senate’s passing of a House measure extending funding for the FAA through Sept. 16, in a vote expected on Friday. The agreement also frees up $2.5 billion in federal grants for delayed construction projects. Congress will return to the outstanding issues in September.
“This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain,” said Senate majority leader Harry Reid in a statement. “But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”
Senate acceptance of the House measure means that some 16 rural communities will lose $16.6 million in subsidies for their airports, including in Senator Reid’s home state of Nevada, and in West Virginia, the home state of Sen. John Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee.
“Airports are thrilled with the news that Senate majority leader Reid has brokered a deal to get the FAA up and running again,” said Greg Principato, president of the Airports Council International-North America, in a statement.
“While airport projects across this nation have been delayed or postponed, and for some the construction season has been lost, it is great that thousands of construction personnel can get back to work,” he added.
In addition to the harm to the construction industry, the loss to the Treasury alone from Congress’s impasse amounts to some $364 million in fees.
“Everyone is trying to argue as if this were about $16 million to defund rural airports,” says J. Bruce Josten, the top lobbyist for the US Chamber of Commerce. “So, we’ve now lost $364 million in fees to save $16 million. We look really dumb after the debt deal.”
Congress has hit record lows in public approval ratings in the last few weeks. A new CNN poll, released on Thursday, finds that only 14 percent of Americans approve of the way that Congress is handling its job.