FAA employees: Furloughs could impact air safety

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The House passed a short-term extension Wednesday, but it included changes to the Essential Air Service program that provides grants to airlines for flying to rural airports that have not been included in previous short-term bills.

The White House and congressional Democrats said the changes should be removed and dealt with in negotiations over the long-term bill. But Republicans in the House proceeded with the vote they scheduled Wednesday, approving the bill on a 243-177 vote.

The current funding measure for the FAA expires Friday, and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said if a deal is not reached by then, about 4,000 agency employees would be furloughed Saturday.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said this week that Congress needs to break the logjam, but added that he wanted to “reassure the flying public that, during this period, safety will not be compromised” by the fractious negotiations.