LaHood keeps up pressure on FAA bill

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood continued prodding Congress on Monday to approve a funding measure for the Federal Aviation Administration, which furloughed 4,000 workers Saturday after its last appropriations bill expired Friday at midnight.

On a conference call with reporters, LaHood said Monday "Congress needs to get its act together and come back to Washington to work on passing an FAA bill."

ADVERTISEMENT
"If this thing gets resolved in the next few hours or the next couple of days, people are going to go back to work," he said.

That appears unlikely; Congress left town last week without a deal, despite dire warnings from LaHood.

The House voted on Wednesday to approve the 21st consecutive short-term measure for the FAA, which has been operating without a long-term authorization bill since 2007. But the House bill included changes to the Essential Air Service program that provides grants to airlines for flying to rural airports, which the Senate and White House said should be left for a longer FAA funding bill.

Republicans leaders in the House said they were not taking another vote on a bill without the provisions, and Senate Democrats said they would not vote on the bill as amended by the House, leading to the stalemate and the furloughs LaHood wants to end.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said that the FAA was not completely out of money during this period, but he said that the Aviation Trust Fund that provides the money for the 4,000 furloughed employees "was like a checking account."

"It runs balances. Money comes in, money goes out," he said. "The problem we have right now is the deposits just stopped."

Babbitt said the Aviation Trust Fund brings in about $10 billion annually.