By Keith Laing
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood continued carrying the administration's message on the FAA shutdown on the interview circuit Thursday, saying on Fox News Channel's "America's Newsroom," "If Congress cares about American jobs and the American people, they can come back for a couple of hours, they can come back from vacation.
"This is a bill that could be passed within a couple of hours,” said LaHood, a former Republican congressman. "These controversial items just mentioned can be worked out. Congress passed a bill on 20 different times without dealing with any of these — they can deal with them. They can handle these — they’ve passed this bill on 20 different times."
However, LaHood's former colleague in the House, Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), took exception to the Transportation secretary's arguments Thursday, saying that LaHood and Democratic leaders' portrayals of House Republicans as "hostage-takers" in the FAA impasse was "vulgar."
LaTourette said House leaders had indicated they'd be willing to pass a bill to fund the FAA that did not have controversial cuts to the Essential Air Service program, which provides subsidies for rural flight service, and some Senate leaders had been willing to accept EAS cuts.
Congress failed to reach an agreement before lawmakers left town for their traditional August recess this week, however, raising the possibility that the FAA shutdown would last until at least September.
The partial shutdown of the FAA is estimated to cost the federal government $30 million per day because the agency is not authorized to collect taxes that would normally be paid on airline ticket sales.
Transportation observers estimate the shutdown has also placed about 70,000 construction workers out of work because about 200 airport construction projects have been placed on hold.