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Congress agrees to deal to end FAA impasse

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Congress agrees to deal to end FAA impasse

Compromise ends 13-day partial shutdown

  • Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood
    thisisbossi/FlickrSecretary of Transportation Ray LaHood

After a 13-day partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, Congressional leaders came to an agreement that will end the impasse over a temporary funding bill and keep the agency running through Sept. 16.

The policy dispute had left 4,000 non-essential FAA employees and 70,000 construction workers on unpaid leave, and interrupted the collection of federal taxes on airline tickets. According to The New York Times, the standoff cost the federal government $350 million in uncollected fees.

As a result of the deal, the Senate will convene at 10 a.m. on Friday to pass a temporary funding bill approved by the House several weeks ago. Only a few senators need to be present for the vote, and if no one objects to a request for unanimous consent to pass the measure, the Times reports, the partial shutdown will end.

The Senate recessed on Tuesday without passing the extension, at least in part because Democrats objected to a Republican provision in the bill that cuts subsidies to rural airports.

But if the matter had been left unresolved until Congress returns in September, thousands of FAA employees could have been left in the lurch and the uncollected fees could have totaled up to $1 billion.

Both President Barack Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urged Congress not to let that happen. Also lurking in the background was a dispute over a recent National Mediation Board decision backed by Democrats that makes it easier for airline employees to unionize.

The Times reports that the breakthrough came on Thursday, when LaHood told Congressional leaders that "he has the authority to issue waivers for the communities affected by the cuts in rural air service contained in the House bill." Without promising action, LaHood said that he would review the affected committees and see about waivers that would postpone the cuts. 

In a statement, Obama lauded the end of the impasse.

"I'm pleased that leaders in Congress are working together to break the impasse involving the FAA so that tens of thousands of construction workers and others can go back to work," he said. "We can't afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery, so this is an important step forward."

LaHood struck a similar tone in his own statement:

This is a tremendous victory for American workers everywhere. From construction workers to our FAA employees, they will have the security of knowing they are going to go back to work and get a paycheck - and that's what we've been fighting for. We have the best aviation system in the world and we intend to keep it that way.

But Reid suggested that this argument is not over.

"This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain,” Reid said in a statement obtained by the Times. “But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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