Senate restores FAA funding, ending partial shutdown of agency

The Senate cleared a funding extension for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday, ending a partial shutdown of the agency and putting about 74,000 furloughed construction workers and federal employees back to work. 

The passage of the measure was unusual in that it took place in a nearly empty chamber during one of the 10 pro forma sessions the Senate is scheduled to hold during the summer recess.

President Obama signed the bill into law on Friday afternoon.

The vote took place under an agreement reached by Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidHillary's ObamaCare problem Sanders tests Wasserman Schultz Nearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo MORE (D-Nev.) and Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerIn House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable House GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns MORE (R-Ohio) on Thursday that provided for passage of the House Republicans' FAA funding bill in the Senate. The bill includes controversial cuts in subsidies to rural flight service to airports in Nevada, West Virginia and Montana that cost the federal government about $16 million annually.

Some Democrats objected to those cuts, pointing out they affected the districts of top Democrats Reid, Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Max BaucusMax BaucusWyden unveils business tax proposal College endowments under scrutiny The chaotic fight for ObamaCare MORE (D-Mont.). But Republicans denied that the cuts were included to target those Democrats. 

Sen. Tom CoburnTom CoburnMcCain: No third-party foes coming for Trump Tough choice for vulnerable GOP senators: Embrace or reject Trump The Trail 2016: Donald and the Supremes MORE (R-Okla.), who fought for the cuts in the Senate, maintained a standing threat to hold up any legislation in which the cuts were not included.

Under the agreement, Republicans will allow Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to issue waivers to rural airports if they make a compelling argument for why they still require the subsidy.

The agreement also allowed the passage of the bill without calling back the entire Senate to Washington.

The bitter fight over FAA funding broke out earlier in the year after the House and Senate adopted drastically different authorization measures for the agency. 

The House version included changes to labor rules that were adopted by the National Mediation Board to make it easier for railroad and airline workers to unionize. 

In announcing the agreement on Thursday, Reid noted that since the bill only extends into September, the dispute over FAA funding is far from over. 

“This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain,” said Reid. “But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”

In the pro forma session, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) brought up the bill, H.R, 2553, or the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, and asked for passage. Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinDems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals Senate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill Lawmakers push to elevate Cyber Command in Senate defense bill MORE (D-Md.) gaveled the session, which lasted about 30 seconds. 

—Keith Laing contributed. Updated at 3:19 p.m.

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