FAA to shut down at midnight

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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The Federal Aviation Administration will shutter some services at midnight after Congress failed to pass a temporary funding extension for the agency today.

The agency has been operating on short-term funding extensions since its last funding bill expired in 2007.

Congress is deadlocked over funding for the Essential Air Service program, which provides federal subsidies to maintain certain rural air routes. The House extension included a provision cutting EAS funding at 13 airports — three more than Senate Democrats were willing to accept — and capping federal subsidies at $1,000 per passenger.

Senate Democrats blocked the House bill, drafted by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica of Florida, from being heard on the floor.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the shutdown means the FAA will furlough as many as 4,000 workers and stop collecting around $200 million a week in airplane-ticket and other taxes until a resolution is reached.

“States and airports won’t be able to work on their construction projects, and too many people will have to go without a paycheck,” LaHood said in an emailed statement today.

LaHood estimated about $2.5 billion in airport construction projects would halt. Essential employees, such as air-traffic controllers, however, will remain on the job. (Congress creeps closer to FAA shutdown)

The House transportation committee shot back at Senate Democrats, saying the Senate had approved the same EAS cuts in its long-term FAA bill, approved in February.

“The Senate agreed to all these cuts earlier this year,” transportation committee chairman John Mica said. “No wonder taxpayers are fed up and angry. This doublespeak by the Senate Democrat leadership makes no sense. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Reid has chosen to furlough thousands of FAA employees over modest reforms he couldn’t beat back on the Senate Floor five months ago.”