FAA teeters on the brink of another shutdown

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Coburn requested to separate the bills and remove the beautification requirements for states, but Reid objected. Reid then proposed moving forward with the bills as they were, and Coburn objected.

The back-and-forth left transportation groups — still reeling from 4,000 FAA workers being furloughed for nearly two weeks last month — worried about another shutdown.

“We urge the Senate to act before the deadline to avert another shutdown and prevent a repeat of the devastating job losses and furloughs we saw last month that severely hurt these dedicated workers and their families,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said in a news release. “These workers should never again have to make another financial sacrifice due to Washington political gamesmanship. It would be irresponsible and unacceptable.”

Communications Workers of America, the parent group of the union for flight attendants, called the impasse “a sequel to a bad movie.”

“Senator Tom Coburn appears willing to put 170,000 jobs at risk and shut down the Federal Aviation Administration over an unrelated issue,” the CWA said in a news release. “Senator Coburn’s concern about bike paths has absolutely nothing to do with the FAA and he knows it. Once again, America’s first-class aviation system is being held hostage by a political party that talks about creating jobs, but when given opportunity only wants to shut them down. Worse still, thousands of dedicated FAA employees and tens of thousands more construction workers are once again pawns in a Washington insiders game.” 

Senate Democratic staffers said talks were still ongoing Thursday afternoon, and that “leaders from both sides” had approached Coburn to ask him to stop blocking the FAA extension.

The staffers said there was a “strong desire” to get the extension resolved today and avoid another shutdown of the FAA.

The last time the agency was forced to partially shut down, the government lost an estimated $30 million per day. In addition to the 4,000 FAA workers who were furloughed, transportation advocates said about 70,000 construction workers were put out-of-work because more than 200 airport projects were stalled.

The highway bill that is tied to the FAA funding is set to reach its own expiration date on Sept. 30. Among other things, the measure authorizes the collection of the federal gas tax, which brings in $100 million per day.