With the debt deal almost shored up, Congress has dashed off to enjoy the summer sun. But what about the FAA?
For more than 10 days now, the Federal Aviation Administration has been limited in its ability to control air traffic after both chambers of Congress failed to agree on an extension of funding for the reauthorization bill that expired in 2007 and has been temporarily extended 20 times since.
Without the reauthorization, the FAA has put about 4,000 employees on unpaid leave and is unable to collect taxes on airline tickets. Analysts estimate the government is losing $200 million a week in airline revenue because of the shutdown, according to Consumer Reports.
In separate opinion pieces published on Tuesday morning, both Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wrote that the failure to reauthorize the agency is a disservice not only to FAA employees but to small businesses and to Americans as a whole.
Without the reauthorization, runways won’t get repaved, rehabilitation and extension projects are on hold, and the upgrade to satellite-based airspace management system is stalled, LaHood wrote in The Hill.
And the effects of the shutdown won’t just hurt the FAA employees, LaHood argued; it will affect 1 in 5 construction workers looking for work.
“The ripple effects are enormous. With workers barred from job sites, middle-class households won’t receive paychecks while their rent, mortgage or back-to-school bills pile up,” LaHood wrote. “Contractors will stop buying supplies. Employees will delay necessary purchases and repairs. Small-business owners will buy fewer goods for their restaurants and stores.”
The shutdown also hurts rural America, Rockefeller wrote in USA Today. The Essential Air Services program, which provides subsidies to major air carriers for air service to rural areas -- and which Republicans are trying to kill -- is on hold with the failure to reauthorize, he said.
“The EAS program has long been a lifeblood of economic development in rural America. Eliminating EAS today would take airline travel away from more than 150 small communities,” Rockefeller wrote. "In my state of West Virginia and many others, hub airports are hours away for most communities, and many businesses won't consider locating in places that lack air service. EAS, which is less than 2% of our aviation budget, makes a difference."
The House went into recess on Monday night and is not expected to return until after the Labor Day weekend.