Mica: Senate chose 'pork' over ending FAA partial shutdown

With the House adjourned for its August recess, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) moved quickly to blame Democrats in the Senate for the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that appears headed to last until at least September. 

The monthlong furlough of 4,000 FAA workers can only be avoided now if the Senate passes the short-term funding bill with cuts to rural airport subsidies objected to by Democrats. Their resistance shows they are not seriously concerned about the out-of-work aviation employees, Mica said. 

“After waiting weeks and doing nothing but complaining about the process and blaming everyone but themselves, Senate Democrat leaders failed again today on a last-ditch effort to approve an extension of FAA programs," Mica said in a statement released by his office late Monday evening.  "Apparently, protecting outrageous airline ticket subsidies is more important than putting 4,000 furloughed FAA employees and thousands of airport construction workers across the country back to work." 

Mica again argued that the cuts to the Essential Air Service program that sank what would have been the 21st short-term extension for the FAA since 2007 were included in a long-term bill passed by the Senate earlier this year. Democrats argued the provision was political retribution for the Senate's objection to labor provisions in the House's version of a long-term FAA bill, but Mica said that was not the case. 

"To be clear, the House extension does not include any National Mediation Board labor provisions, which is another contentious issue between the House and Senate," he said. 

“Hardworking Americans are suffering because some powerful leaders in the Senate want to protect their own pork programs," Mica continued. "We are all fed up with the sham that is going on in the Senate. The Senate made a clear choice — political pork over American workers.”

Democrats were just as eager Tuesday to cast blame for the FAA shutdown on Republicans. 

“House Republicans decided to go on vacation early when we should have stuck around to solve this senseless shutdown,” Rep. Nick Rahall (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement Tuesday. 

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“Unwilling to compromise from their rigid 'my way or the runway' shotgun approach to negotiating at gunpoint, Republicans have made it crystal-clear that purchasing a few political points for Tea Party extremists is worth jeopardizing nearly 90,000 American jobs and sacrificing over $1 billion in lost revenue," Rahall continued. 

And just as Mica said Democrats could have ended the FAA impasse, Rahall said the GOP could have stopped the shutdown. 

“Make no mistake about it — House Republican leaders had the ability to end this senseless shutdown and put tens of thousands of American back to work,” he said. “Republicans recklessly chose to continue the $30 million-per-day shutdown instead of trying to get construction crews back on the clock.”

The last appropriations bill for the FAA expired 11 days ago, leading to 4,000 employees being furloughed indefinitely. Transportation advocates say another 70,000 construction workers had to stop working on stalled airport projects, including a slew of new air traffic control towers being built around the country. 

Money has not been deposited into the trust fund that pays for both the projects and the FAA workers for more than a week because of a provision in the House version of a short-term extension of the FAA funding bill that eliminates some subsidies for rural air service through the Essential Air Service program. A longer-term bill has been bogged down by a House effort to undo rules on unionization of railroad and airline employees that would make it harder for them to vote to bargain collectively.

The last long-term authorization bill for the FAA passed by Congress was approved in 2004. It expired in 2007.