Rep. LaTourette: 'I'd be shocked' if FAA shutdown continues into next week

The partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration will likely be resolved before next week, the vice-chairman of a House appropriations subcommittee said Thursday.

"I would be shocked if this week turns into next week without something happening," Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies panel, said during a news conference at the Capitol on Thursday. 

About 4,000 FAA workers have been furloughed since July 23 because the House and Senate could not agree on legislation that would have extended the current funding levels for the agency through the August recess. 

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Senate Democratic leaders spent most of Tuesday blaming House Republicans, calling them "hostage-takers" who were willing to put FAA employees out of work to get their way on a short term funding bill. 

But LaTourette said Thursday that he was "offended by the way the Secretary of Transportation and Senate majority leadership attempted to message this discussion."

The House approved a short-term funding measure that eliminates subsidies for several small airports in Nevada, West Virginia and Montana. Democrats said that airports were selected for cuts to the Essential Air Service program in political retribution for the Senate's objection to House language in a broader funding bill that would undo a change to rules governing railroad and airline workers' ability to unionize.

But LaTourette said that the Democrats rhetoric was untrue. In particular, he called Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's comments about Congress taking their "vacations" while putting people out of work "vulgar." 

"I think it's important to talk about who the hostages are and who is taking them," LaTourette said Thursday.

LaTourette said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated to Senate leaders over the week that he was willing to agree to a clean extension of FAA funding and "agree to shake hands" on separate cuts to rural airport subsidies after the August recess.

LaTourette praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for being willing to accept the House version of the short-term funding bill despite the fact that it cut subsidies for service to an airport in his state.

LaTourette also was critical of GOP Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who he said was opposed to passing a clean FAA bill now.

LaTourette said Coburn was insistent on the Senate passing the House version of the bill because it would be "the first bill to cut spending passed by the Senate this year."

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 put about 70,000 construction workers out of work because about 200 airport projects have been placed on hold.