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FAA Shutdown is a Crisis of the Senate's Own Creation

FAA Shutdown is a Crisis of the Senate’s Own Creation
Shuster Calls on Senate to Pass House-Approved FAA Extension


Washington, DC – Congressman Bill Shuster, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Subcommittee Chairman, issued the following statement regarding the Senate’s inaction that has resulted in the FAA shutdown:

“Last month, the House passed a bipartisan FAA funding extension and sent it to the Senate for their approval. It has languished there ever since. Because of the Senate’s inaction, 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed and an estimated 70,000 construction workers aren’t collecting a paycheck.  

This is a crisis of the Senate’s own creation.  The truth of the matter is this: a handful of Senators are using FAA employees and working families as pawns in order to protect outrageous ticket subsidies for three small airports.

If Senator Reid is serious about creating and protecting jobs, he could end the FAA shutdown today through a simple Unanimous Consent agreement to pass the House-approved extension. Unfortunately, given that the Senate has failed to pass a budget in over 800 days, their inaction on the FAA isn’t so much a surprise as it has become the norm.”

Some facts about the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA):

FACT:  On August 2nd, eleven days after the FAA shutdown, Senate Democrat leaders continued to block a vote on a bipartisan, House-passed FAA extension sent to them on July 20th.  They have also failed repeatedly to pass their own FAA extension.

FACT:  Senate leaders have chosen to protect political pork and outrageous subsidies of nearly $4,000 per ticket on the backs of 4,000 furloughed FAA employees and thousands of laid-off construction workers.

FACT:  The House FAA extension bill contains Senate-passed language reforming the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program, including cutting ticket subsidies in excess of $1,000 per ticket and eliminating subsidies for communities within 90 miles of a large commercial airport—these modest reforms affect only 13 airports.

FACT:  Airline service for Ely, Nevada is subsidized an incredible $3,720 per ticket.

FACT:  The subsidized community of Morgantown, WV is just 34 miles from Clarksburg Airport, an EAS airport served by United Airlines with flights to Washington, D.C., and only 75 miles from Pittsburgh International Airport.

FACT:  Every ticket subsidy eliminated by the House-passed extension is also eliminated by the Senate’s own long-term FAA bill, which it approved in February (see sections 420 and 421 of Senate bill S. 223).

FACT:  The EAS reforms contained in the House-passed FAA extension are even more limited than those contained in the Senate’s own long-term FAA bill.

FACT:  On August 2nd, Senate majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled their intention to pass the House extension.

FACT:  On August 2nd, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid summed up the entire situation clearly and succinctly when he said, “The Essential Air Service is a program that I believe in, but I also believe that $3,500 per passenger is a little extreme.  And I do my best to protect the state, but sometimes you have to be reasonable. We learned with this big deal we’ve just done, sometimes you have to step back and find out what’s best for the country and not be bound by some of your own personal issues.  And I’m willing to give that up. I hope the other senators would do the same.” (CQ, August 2, 2011)

FACT:  On August 2nd, Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood said; “We need the Senate to pass the House bill, before they go on their vacations, to put 4,000 people back to work and 70,000 construction workers” (Politico, August 2, 2011).  He added that it was “…time for the Senate to take action, which they can do today, and the president will sign it.”  (The Hill, August 3, 2011)

FACT:  Despite the comments made by Senate Majority Leader Reid on August 2nd, Senate and House Democrats are again complaining about the process, arguing they need a “clean” extension with no policy riders, and making accusations that this is all about union elections.

FACT:  Senate leaders have refused to bring up this simple FAA extension and vote on modest taxpayer savings it already approved in February.

FACT:  There are no labor provisions in the bipartisan, House-passed FAA extension—see H.R. 2553.  [Click here to read H.R. 2553]

FACT:  One of the previous FAA extensions, passed in 2010 under House and Senate Democrat leadership, included numerous policy provisions – in fact, an entire aviation safety bill.

FACT:  Sadly, the FAA partial shutdown has put good, hard-working Americans out of work and depletes the Airport and Airway Trust Fund by nearly $30 million per day.

FACT:  There is a simple way forward, but instead of passing the bipartisan, House-passed FAA extension and sending it to the President for his signature, the Senate chose to do nothing but point fingers and protect pork.  

FACT:  After 4 ½ years and 20 previous extensions – 17 of which were passed by a Democrat-controlled House and Senate – Chairman Mica and House leaders are determined to stop the endless series of short, stopgap FAA extensions since the expiration of the previous FAA law in 2007.  They are not willing to continue this irresponsible and short-sighted approach to aviation policy at the expense of completing negotiations on a much needed long-term FAA law.  The 21st extension should be the last.

FACT:  Chairman Mica has worked with and will continue to work with Chairman Rockefeller and other Members of Congress to pass a responsible and long-overdue FAA reauthorization, and urges the successful and cooperative completion of that important responsibility.