By Alexander Bolton - 09/15/11 09:15 PM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has struck a deal with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to allow votes on short-term extensions of the highway and Federal Aviation Administration funding bills.
Coburn will allow a vote on the combined bills in exchange for votes on two amendments sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), said a Democratic aide.
The House has already passed it, and if the Senate did not act by the end of the day Friday, it would have caused the second shutdown of the FAA in less than two months.
Democrats estimate a shutdown would have put about 75,000 people out of work, including 4,000 FAA employees.
Coburn objected to the transportation/FAA package because of funding for bike paths and other projects he considered wasteful.
“There ought to be a time at which we say enough’s enough,” Coburn said Wednesday afternoon. “And I know there will be several people, including my own senior senator [Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)], who will be unhappy with my position but I believe it’s time to draw a line in the sand for the American people, for our future.”
Coburn’s hard-line stance put him at odds with Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The FAA shut down temporarily in August after Republicans and Democrats could not agree on a temporary extension of its funding authorization.
Congress has passed more than 20 short-term extensions of the agency’s funding bill, which expired in 2007.