Senate could pass House FAA bill to end partial shutdown

Faced with the prospect of extending the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration until September, the Democratically-controlled Senate might accept a funding bill passed by the Republican-led House that includes provisions Senate Democrats have strongly opposed.


Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon after the Senate's debt-ceiling vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidLas Vegas airport to be renamed after former Sen. Harry Reid Sanders replacing top staffers with campaign aides Collins re-enacts her martyr role, but did Biden learn his lesson? MORE (D-Nev.) said that accepting the House FAA bill, which cuts subsidies to rural airports in Reid's state as well as Senate Transportation Chairman Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE's (W.Va.), could be the only option at this point. 

“I do my best to protect the state, but sometimes you have to be reasonable," Reid said. “As we learned with this big deal we’ve just done, sometimes you have to step back and find out what’s best for the country and not be bound by some of your own personal feelings."

After it passed the debt-ceiling deal late Monday evening, the House adjourned for its summer recess. That means any FAA bill approved by the Senate other than the measure approved this week by the House would languish until at least Sept. 7, when the House is set to return. 

The impasse, which has already lasted 11 days, has resulted in 4,000 FAA workers being furloughed and a slew of airport construction projects being stalled. Transportation advocates estimate about 70,000 construction workers have been put out of work by the FAA shutdown, which President Obama called on Tuesday a "another Washington-inflicted wound on America."

Rockefeller's office would not comment on the possibility of the upper chamber accepting the House FAA bill. But the senator's office also would not rule it out, which is a big change in posture since before the shutdown began. 

Rockefeller has said Republicans were being "petty" for shutting down the FAA, and he has argued the fight is more about union provisions in a larger bill to fund the agency for the next several years than the $16 million in airport subsidy cuts the GOP accuses Democrats of valuing more than FAA workers. 

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Rockefeller's committee has offered "clean" FAA extensions the last two days, and said it offered a stand-alone bill that would have cut $71 million from the Essential Air Service program. Staffers said both measures were rejected by the House GOP. 

The FAA said the 4,000 workers would remain furloughed as long as Congress goes without passing a new FAA bill, even if that means they are out of work for the entire recess period. 

The agency estimates the partial shutdown has cost the federal government $30 million per day because taxes that are normally collected on airline ticket purchases are not able to be deposited into the Aviation Trust Fund unless Congress authorizes the FAA to do so. 

—Hill reporters Bernie Becker and Sam Youngman contributed to this report.