WASHINGTON D.C.-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood scolded Congressional members today over the undecided FAA extension. A decision had not been made before the members broke for the summer recess. This unfinished business on their part has caused the lay-offs of some 74,000 people, and lost revenue of $30 million a day since their authorization ended on July 22nd.
Secretary LaHood had this to say to Congressional members,”They talk a lot about jobs. They give good speeches about it. I want them to walk the walk. Put hard-working Americans to work so they can get a paycheck just like Congress is receiving on their vacations.” He went on to add, “If you’ve got issues with labor. If you’ve got issues with money going to small airports to help airlines fly in and out, work that out. Don’t hold the American jobs and American people hostage over controversial issues that were not a problem on 20 other times when Congress passed an extension.”
President Obama also weighed in yesterday, urging Congress to settle the issue before the end of the week. In his statement before a cabinet meeting, he said, “Don’t put the livelihoods of thousands of people at risk. Don’t put projects at risk. And don’t let a billion dollars, at a time when we’re scrambling for every dollar we can, get left on the table because Congress didn’t act.”
Senate members left without approving a short-term extension for the FAA. It would have been the 21 extension given. But, this extension sent to the Senate from the house contained changes not present in previous extensions.
There were several sticking points in this extension forwarded from the House. The first would reduce or kill subsidies to rural airports. Specifically, airports in New Mexico, Montana and Nevada, blue states with influential Democrat Senators.
And second, the House wants to keep the new rules set out by the National mediation Board out of the FAA Authorization Bill. The new rules state that only 50%+1 of votes cast are all that is needed to organize. Old rules stated 50%+1 of all members voting or not is needed and all persons not voting would be considered a vote to the negative.
Third West Coast Senators want an increased number of slots at Reagan Washington National Airport. 12 are allowed now. Additional flights are diverted to airports 30 miles away. Resistance comes from Congressional members in those districts who fear the change will mean less air travel to their districts.
Fourth is the $4 Billion cutback in FAA spending. This cut would bring FAA to 2008 levels.