House Dems introduce 'clean' FAA funding bill

Wednesday - 7/27/2011, 2:16pm EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Democrats on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure introduced a bill Tuesday that would fund the Federal Aviation Administration and end a furlough of 4,000 FAA employees.

The expiration of FAA funding at midnight Friday also halted $2.5 billion in airport construction projects.

A Republican-sponsored bill passed by the House last week to extend FAA authority through Sept. 16 included a provision to cut $16.5 million in air service subsidies - more than 10 percent of FAA's total budget. Senate Democrats objected to the cut.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-W.V.), the ranking member of the committee, accused Republicans of "negotiating at gunpoint."

Rahall urged his GOP counterparts to pass the bill, which would fund FAA through September.

Committee chairman Rep. John L. Mica (R- Fla.) said the provision in the House-passed FAA bill would "eliminate excessive subsidies between $1,358 and $3,720 per ticket at three airports."

"Those 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed so some in the Senate can protect their own political pork with airline ticket subsidies of more than $3,700 per passenger," Mica said in a statement on Monday. "I stand ready and committed to work with the Senate and all parties on an FAA bill, but the only way to get FAA employees back to work immediately is for the Senate to act now."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Federal News Radio this week that he was also urging Congress to pass a "clean" bill that did not include any controversial provisions.

"It will be very easy to get our folks back to work. Our 4,000 employees can come back with just a phone call saying that the funds have been restored, the extension has been granted," LaHood said in the interview.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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