A standoff in Congress that has caused a two week partial shutdown in the Federal Aviation Administration and halted 70,000 construction jobs across the country has come to an end. Well, at least for now.
CNN reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, announced Thursday that Democratic and Republican leaders have “been able to broker a bipartisan compromise between the House and the Senate” to fully fund the Federal Aviation Administration.
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“This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain,” Reid said in a written statement. “But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”
According to Senator Barbara Boxer, this agreement only lasts until September 16.
The dispute could be resolved as early as Friday, a senior Democratic leadership aide said earlier in the day.
The impasse was over two proposed long-term bills to renew the FAA’s operating authority. One included a provision that would have cut subsidies for rural airports and another would make it more difficult for air and rail workers to unionize. While Republicans and Democrats battled it out, the FAA was forced to issue stop work orders because its funding expired on July 22.
Among the halted construction projects is the Palmdale Regional Airport’s $12,000,000 modernization project.
“The flying public is safe, but safety improvement projects have been halted and slowed down,” explained Boxer.
Also as a result of the FAA’s expired operating authority, airlines were unable to collect taxes on ticket sales, lowering the price of tickets. Some airlines chose to raise the newly reduced prices in order to pocket the difference.
“I think once this is over, there ought to be a look by the Commerce committee about it,” stated Boxer regarding the legality of airlines raising their prices.
The pressure to find a compromise is, according to Boxer, important for both laid-off construction workers and the general public’s confidence in the aviation system.
“It’s not like turning on a light switch. It’s going to take time to get our crews back on the job, to fix the damage, so the sooner they end this, the better,” said Dave Callis, the contractor for a project at the Palm Springs International Airport, in a quote read by Boxer.
In addition, Boxer expressed concerns that “What’s happening as a result of all of this is that there’s a loss of confidence in our aviation system, and they work so hard to give people confidence. People see this and the perception is ‘Are our airports safe? Are they functional?’ So, we lose ground all across the board.”
During a press conference, Boxer received the news from a participating reporter that Reid had announced the agreement, exclaiming “Oh, that’s great news! That’s great, great news!”
“We’ve got to resolve this short term issue and we’ve got to resolve the long term differences,” said Boxer.
Boxer’s proposed solution to the problem is through the formation of a conference committee.
“That’s how we resolve differences. It’s not by one side saying I’m going to hold everything hostage until you agree. It’s not the way we do things. So, I think it’s key now that we resolve this, and that Boehner appoint conferees, and that we work. This is where we air our differences, in the conference committee, not on a 30 day extension. It’s not the way to govern. And it is really making things very difficult for the American people who are directly impacted,” said Boxer.