WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is praising a bipartisan deal that will end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration and get thousands of workers back on the job.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Thursday that Congress has reached a compromise to end the two-week shutdown of the FAA that has idled 74,000 federal employees and construction workers and cost the government about $30 million a day in uncollected airline ticket taxes.
The deal would allow the Senate to approve a House bill extending the FAA's operating authority through mid September, including a provision that eliminates $16.5 million in air service subsidies to 13 rural communities. A vote on the bill is expected today.
The partisan standoff that led to the shutdown began last month when Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, signaled intent to attach the subsidy cuts to a bill to extend FAA's operating authority through mid September. The agency has been operating under a series of 20 short-term extensions since 2007, when the last long-term funding bill expired.
Senate Democrats complained that Republicans were breaking precedent by trying to enact policy changes that hadn't been agreed to on an extension bill. Even Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas called the measure a "procedural hand grenade." Senators refused to pass the House bill, saying to do so would be giving in to legislative blackmail and inviting Republicans to up the ante on the next extension bill.
President Barack Obama, who had scolded Congress on Wednesday for not solving the standoff, expressed relief.
"I'm pleased that leaders in Congress are working together to break the impasse involving the FAA so that tens of thousands of construction workers and others can go back to work," Obama said in a statement. "We can't afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery, so this is an important step forward."