WASHINGTON — A partisan stalemate that has partially shut down the Federal Aviation Administration will continue into September, stopping airport construction projects and depriving federal coffers of potentially more than $1 billion in uncollected ticket taxes, after congressional attempts to reach deal fell through on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., initially told reporters that he would be willing to accept a House Republican bill to restore the FAA's operating authority even though it contained cuts in subsidies for rural air service that some Democrats oppose. But he reversed course after a possible deal with House Republicans had fallen through.
The Senate was due to leave for its August recess today. The House left Monday.
The FAA's operating authority expired on July 23, as well as the authority of airlines to collect $30 million a day in ticket taxes, meaning the government will be unable to collect an estimated $1.2 billion in taxes if the shutdown continues until lawmakers return to work next month.
Nearly 4,000 FAA employees have been laid off and stop-work orders issued for more than 200 construction projects. Air traffic controllers have remained on the job, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has vowed that safety won't be compromised and travelers won't be inconvenienced
Republicans blame Democrats for the shutdown, saying they have been unwilling to accept minor cuts to a rural air services program long criticized as wasteful. But Democrats said the air services cuts were being used as leverage to force them to give in to the House on a labor provision in a separate, long-term FAA funding bill that would make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize.
President Barack Obama implored Congress to settle the dispute before lawmakers leave Washington for the August recess, calling the stalemate "another Washington-inflicted wound on America."