Accessibility links


Deal Announced to End Budget Impasse at US Aviation Agency

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (file photo)

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (file photo)

Another political standoff in Washington appears to be over. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid announced Thursday that lawmakers have agreed to approve an emergency budget for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Due to a partisan budget issue, more than 4,000 FAA workers were out of work for the last two weeks -- waiting for Congress to pass the aviation authority's budget.

Laid off worker Patricia Henn accused lawmakers of leaving Washington for the summer without approving their checks. "Congress did fail to pass our authorization. We rely on Congress to authorize the FAA to do our job," Henn said.

At issue was a plan to cut government subsidies and union bargaining rights at rural airports. Republicans argued the cuts would save the government $16 million dollars a year. But Democrats said the plan unfairly targeted small communities. Besides lost wages, estimates show the standoff cost the government $30 million a day in lost airline taxes.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood practically begged lawmakers this week to come back. "Come back to Washington! Leave your vacations just for a couple of hours! Come back Congress, help your friends and neighbors get back to work," he said.

It seems lawmakers were listening. Late Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Democrats and Republicans had struck a temporary deal to allow FAA workers to be paid.

But some say the damage is done. Some workers accuse Congress of playing with their livelihoods.

"Everyone wants to play hardball and the hardball hurt us," said Tim Rickford, a Cleveland airport worker.

While few details are available, the budget compromise comes after increasing pressure from President Barack Obama.

"This is an example of a self-inflicted wound that is unnecessary, and my expectation - and I think the American people's expectation - is that this gets resolved before the end of this week," the president said.

Failure to reach a compromise until lawmakers returned from their summer recess in September would have shut down hundreds of airport construction projects. Besides millions in lost wages, estimates suggest a prolonged FAA stalemate would have cost the government about $1.3 billion dollars in lost revenue.