Mica: Dems, Washington Post twisted FAA debate

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Mica went on to defend his push for cuts to subsidies for flights to rural airports in the Essential Air Service program. Democrats said the cuts were politically motivated because three airports that were added to cuts passed by the Senate earlier this year were in the districts of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

But Mica said the cuts to airport subsidies was only for the most egregious cases.

"What the writer failed to mention is that the leverage language included in the House extension was not to end rural air service subsidies, but to stop the federal underwriting of passenger tickets at three airports where taxpayers shell out from $1,350 to over $3,700 per ticket," he wrote.

Mica was unapologetic about forcing the debate on the EAS program.

"Yes, after four and a half years and 20 short-term extensions, I decided to use every means of cooperation and leverage to move the stalled but important long-term FAA bill forward," he wrote.

He also criticized the deal that ended the FAA shutdown — a House bill passed in July that included the EAS cuts but allowed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to use his authority to waive the airports from the cuts. The Senate approved the bill Friday.

"In the end, these senators agreed to pass the House extension, and now, kicking dirt in the taxpayers' faces, will ask Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to ignore the cost savings efforts in the bill and protect their pork," Mica wrote. "Unfortunately, the American people have witnessed firsthand during this minor difference of opinion — blown up into a crisis by Senate Democrats — how truly difficult it is to bring about even modest reforms and cut wasteful programs in Washington."

The shutdown, which began July 23 and lasted 13 days, was estimated to have cost the federal government $30 million per day. In addition to the FAA workers, transportation observers say about 70,000 workers were put out of work by canceled airport construction projects.

The bill that was approved to end the shutdown last week only funds the FAA through Sept. 16, so lawmakers will likely be right back to debating the agency funding when they return from their traditional August recess.