A Taste of Bi-Partisan AgreementBy ALISON GENDAR
August 9, 2011
Partisan bickering partially shut down the Federal Aviation Administration for two weeks, but there’s unity now to make sure furloughed workers get their back pay.
House members today proposed the FAA pay up the 4,000 FAA employees temporarily put out of work by Congress failing to agree on a funding plan.
A Senate version of the back-pay legislation was already proposed.
“That’s great news,” said Nick Paraskevas, 47, of Queens. The FAA electrical engineer and father-of-two was out two weeks pay because of the FAA’s partial shut-down July 23.
“We won’t get the money immediately, but hopefully soon,” said Paraskevas, who went back to work Monday at the agency’s Jamaica, Queens, regional office.
The debacle began when the GOP-run House and Democratically-controlled Senate couldn’t agree on the FAA’s next round of funding.
The fight centered on Republican language that would make it harder for unions to organize airlines, like Delta, and delivery companies, like FedEx.
Senate Democrats said they would not sign off on such a measure. House Republicans countered by eliminating federal airport subsidies to the home states of targeted Senators.
Both sides broke for the summer recess without passing the legislation.
The FAA was forced to furloughed workers, like Paraskevas, and put millions of dollars worth of construction projects on hold.
The Obama administration went on the war path - trumpeting the $30 million of airfare taxes lost each day of a partial shut-down and the thousands of workers idled.
House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, (R-Fla.) told the Washington Post that he was unprepared for the blow-back.
“I didn’t know it would cause this much consternation," Mica was quoted. “Now I’ve just got to get the broom and the shovel and clean up the mess."
The two sides worked out a compromise to fund the FAA through Sept. 16.
Mica yesterday signed onto a House bi-partisan bill to get the FAA workers their back pay.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, (D-W.Va), head of the Senate committee that oversees the FAA, was determined to get back pay for the workers and keep it from happening again, his spokesman said.
House Republicans today said they didn’t want a repeat of the mess either.
“For the past two weeks it was important to get these workers back on the job. Now my focus is to get them back pay and to ensure this avoidable situation never happens again,” said Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-N.J.), who had been asked by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to help end the impasse.
Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island), an original cosponsor of the legislation, had said Congress was duty-bound to stop playing with people’s livelihood.
“Too many innocent people are being held hostage while Congress plays a game of political chicken,” King said.