Cardin: Congress could end FAA furlough this week

Monday - 8/1/2011, 11:16am EDT

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

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(This story has been updated)

By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

Senate Democrats introduced a bill yesterday that would end the partial FAA shutdown that has sidelined 4,000 employees, halted construction projects at airports around the country and will likely lead to a loss of $1.2 billion in revenue from airline-ticket taxes.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, would eliminate air service subsidies to some rural airports - one of the provisions at the heart of the partisan dispute that led to the partial shutdown.

In an interview with Federal News Radio on Monday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said a bill putting FAA workers back to work could be taken up by Congress as early as this week.

However, if Congress doesn't act soon, the furlough could last a lot longer, as lawmakers prepare to depart Washington for the August recess. The Washington Post reported that House members left for the break Monday evening, and the Senate is expected to do so after it votes Tuesday on the bill to raise the debt ceiling.

Still, Cardin told Federal News Radio there is a "commitment to do our best to get it done this week."

When asked for advice for furloughed FAA workers, the senator took a page from President Barack Obama's book. "I think it's important that a spotlight be put on this," he said. "We can't go into our [recess] without first dealing with this issue. It's not right for the flying public, it's not right for the workers and it's not right for the economy."

Cardin has also introduced separate legislation that would pay FAA workers for the time they were furloughed using the agency's trust fund. Even with the less-than-stellar economy, Cardin said the "funds are there" to pay the 4,000 workers.

The senator also assailed the impromptu tax holiday airlines have taken in the wake of the partial shutdown, which caused FAA's authority to levy federal taxes on airline ticket sales to lapse. In the meantime, most airlines have simply raised their rates and pocketed the difference, which Cardin called "ridiculous."

This story is part of Federal News Radio's Congressional Spotlight sponsored by United Technologies Corporation. Click here for more stories on Congress.