New Jersey Democratic Sens. Robert Mendenez and Frank Lautenberg said the impasse was all Republicans' fault.
"We write to urge you to work with your Republican conference to pass a clean extension of the Federal Aviation Administration," the senators wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
"The House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 2553, which contains a controversial and divisive policy provision that impacts air service to several states," they continued. "This policy provision is part of the ongoing negotiations between the House and Senate. Controversial policy provisions like this should not be in the extension."
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) saw it differently, saying it was the Senate that was being intransigent.
“To put people back to work and restart FAA programs, the Senate needs to adopt the FAA extension passed by the House last Wednesday," Mica said in a statement released late Tuesday by his office.
“If the Senate cannot agree to a simple provision, which it approved earlier this year, to eliminate excessive subsidies between $1,358 and $3,720 per ticket at three airports, then we don’t need to convene a conference meeting," he continued. “Those 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed so some in the Senate can protect their own political pork with airline ticket subsidies of more than $3,700 per passenger.
"I stand ready and committed to work with the Senate and all parties on an FAA bill, but the only way to get FAA employees back to work immediately is for the Senate to act now,” Mica said.
FAA officials have stressed that air-traffic safety would not be affected by the partial shutdown. Air traffic controllers are typically not paid out of the Aviation Trust Fund, which the authorization bill covers.