Reid: Congress could end FAA shutdown during recess

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Other Democratic leaders in the House and Senate used the news conference to berate Republicans for attaching a rider to a bill that would have extended the FAA's funding through Sept. 16, more than a week after Congress is scheduled to return from recess. Republicans included cuts to rural airport subsidies in the short-term version they passed, which several Democrats said Wednesday amounted to hostage negotiations.

"We need to get this done and we should get it done today," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. "Unfortunately, Republicans continue to practice the politics of confrontation and hostage-taking."

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Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said that he was willing to negotiate whatever provisions Republicans wanted in a longer-term bill if they passed a short-term bill to put the FAA workers back to work.

"A clean bill of extension says you'll talk, but you're not going to be told what you're going to talk about," he said. "If they go along with a clean bill of extension, we can sit down and negotiate anything they want."

But Rockefeller's counterpart in the House, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), said Wednesday it was the Democrats in the Senate who needed to go along to get along now.

"Senate Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for this partial shutdown of FAA programs and airport projects,” Mica said in a statement released by his office. "Senate Democrats had a House-passed FAA extension before them for two weeks but chose to do nothing. Instead of passing this simple bill, Senate Democrats chose to protect outrageous ticket subsidies, as much as $3,720 per ticket in Ely, Nevada, on the backs of 4,000 furloughed FAA employees and thousands more out-of-work airport construction workers."

Democrats argued again Wednesday that the Republican stance on the bill was really about labor provisions that have engulfed a larger long-term funding measure for the FAA.

But Mica said Wednesday “There are no labor provisions in the House-passed extension. 

"House Republicans don’t vote in the Senate," he said. "Airlines don’t vote in the Senate. There are a number of unresolved issues in negotiations with the Senate, including the NMB labor provision. We have been willing to compromise, willing to negotiate, find common ground. But powerful Senate Democrats have chosen to protect an airline ticket subsidy program on the backs of thousands of FAA employees and airport construction workers. Now they plan to engage in a personal and political media bludgeoning of folks who disagree with them."

During the Democratic news conference, Reid called on House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) to "end this nonsense."

But Boehner said Wednesday was Reid who needed to act now.

“All it will take to end this crisis is for the Senate to pass the House-approved FAA extension," Boeher said in a statement. "The only reason so many jobs are at stake is Senate Democratic Leaders chose to play politics rather than pass the House bill.  I respect the fact that Senators have certain objections, but they have had two weeks to respond to the House bill and done nothing, leaving tens of thousands of workers in limbo.  The House has done its job, and now it’s time for Senators to do theirs."