Six-week FAA furlough looms

Tuesday - 8/2/2011, 3:43pm EDT

By Jared Serbu
Reporter
Federal News Radio

Lawmakers appeared all but certain Tuesday to depart to their home districts for Congress' August recess period without reaching a House-Senate compromise that would end a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Failing to enact an extension of the FAA's authorization bill stretches the furlough of nearly 4,000 employees into September. The partial shutdown also involves stop work orders to more than 200 FAA contractors and the loss of work for an estimated 24,000 private sector employees.

There were glimmers of hope Monday that the impasse, revolving around subsidies for expensive-to-serve rural airports would be overcome after Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Commerce Committee, agreed to accept the cutbacks approved by House members. But by Tuesday, no deal had been reached between the House and the Senate. House lawmakers had already left town, and a vote on an FAA measure appeared unlikely.

By Tuesday afternoon, it appeared the one remaining option was for senators to accept the House-passed extension bill and send it directly to President Obama. But that option was foreclosed when Democrats objected, demanding a clean extension bill.

"We haven't done our jobs," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told Federal News Radio Tuesday morning. "Unfortunately, many FAA employees aren't collecting pay and aren't allowed to work because somebody's stuck protecting their parochial interest. That's a dysfunctional Congress."

The shutdown is less than two weeks old and already the government has lost more than $250 million in revenue because airlines' authority to collect ticket taxes has expired. The entire annual budget of the rural air services program is about $200 million.

"I'm a fiscal conservative," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), told the Senate on Monday. "I'm trying to make the cuts that are necessary, trying to do the things that are right, but ...that just doesn't add up."

The Senate, with the federal debt crisis resolved, is expected to leave by the end of the week for its August recess. The House has already left. Unless the Senate accepts the House bill, lost revenue from uncollected airline ticket taxes could exceed $1.2 billion before lawmakers return to work a month later, senators said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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