Obama urges Congress to end FAA shutdown
August 4, 2011
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama urged Congress yesterday to end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, which began nearly two weeks ago because of a partisan standoff over air service to rural communities.
Obama said nearly 4,000 FAA workers have been furloughed, another 70,000 workers involved in airport construction projects are affected and the country stands to lose more than $1 billion in revenue from uncollected airline ticket taxes during the shutdown if Congress leaves the problem hanging until lawmakers return in September.
"So this is a lose-lose-lose situation," he said.
Republican leaders responded that the problem can be resolved almost immediately if Senate Democrats accept $16.5 million in cuts to air service subsidies that the House last month attached to a bill to extend FAA's operating authority.
But Democratic leaders said the cuts are a sham. The real issue, they said, is that Republicans are provoking crisis after crisis to get Democrats to accept policy changes that the GOP wouldn't be able to achieve through normal legislative negotiations.
"It's like the debt ceiling crisis all over again," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola). "Once again partisan gridlock is holding up progress in Washington, but this time actual jobs have been lost, including in my district."
Democrats offered bills in the House and Senate to extend FAA's operating authority with no strings attached, but action on the measures was blocked by Republicans.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Congress needs to break the impasse. "Too many innocent people are being held hostage while Congress plays a game of political chicken," King said. "I am ready to return to Washington, D.C., at any time to vote to end this terrible situation."
Locally, 16 FAA employees in the district office in Garden City, six at Long Island MacArthur Airport and 101 at the Queens-based FAA eastern regional division office have been furloughed.