Because we didn’t have enough to worry about, the Federal Aviation Administration could shut down Friday, if Republicans insist on including certain controversial provisions into a short-term extension.
Showing how Washington runs like a precision watch, the FAA’s authorization bill has been extended on a short-term basis 20 different times since 2007. The 21st short-term measure is up for a vote in the House this week, but according to a Statement of Administration Policy, it includes unacceptable provisions that would not get a Presidential signature. HR 2553 is the legislative vehicle in the House for the short-term extension.
H.R. 2553 includes controversial provisions that, because they have not been negotiated, needlessly threaten critical FAA programs and jeopardize thousands of public and private sector jobs. Without timely passage of a clean extension, all of FAA’s capital accounts (Grants-in-Aid for Airports, Facilities and Equipment, and Research, Engineering, and Development) would be shut down, and approximately 4,000 employees would be furloughed. FAA’s ability to award new grants, including for infrastructure upgrades at airports across the country, as well as to move forward with vital testing and implementation of the Next Generation air traffic control system, would come to a stop.
Both sides have passed a long-term extension, but the consensus bill was being hammered out in negotiations. Apparently these talks broke down. So, Rep. John Mica (R-FL), the chair of the House Transportation Committee, included a provision that changes Essential Air Service in a way that is still being negotiated in the compromise bill. Essential Air Service provides funding for rural airports across the country, allowing for postal service and transportation. Specifically, this measure would limit EAS eligibility to those airports further than 90 miles from a large or medium airport. The White House obviously doesn’t support that inclusion in the short-term bill.
Even trade groups like the Aerospace Industries Association support a short-term extension.
Happy flying, everyone!
…as if I couldn’t guess, there’s also an anti-union component to this:
Republicans want to overturn a 2010 ruling by the National Mediation Board, the federal agency that mediates labor disputes for airline and railroad workers, which would make union elections more fair and democratic by counting votes of only those voting, instead of all eligible workers. Naturally, Republicans are opposed to any expansion of workers’ rights and are now threatening to shutdown the agency if they don’t get their way, since the Senate has made it clear it will not approve the House version of the re-authorization bill and President Obama has vowed to veto it.
The EAS provision also eliminates federal funding for airports in Nevada, Montana and West Virginia, which happen to be the home states of key Democratic leaders.