This morning, Congress resolved a dispute over Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) reauthorization that brought airport construction to a halt around the country and idled some 74,000 FAA workers and construction contractors. Under the unanimous consent procedure, the Senate passed the House's reauthorization bill, including the Mica amendment.
The President signed the bill this afternoon and according to a White House release the bill extends through September 16, 2011, authorities to collect taxes that fund the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, make expenditures from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, and make grants to airports under the Airport Improvement Program and limits eligibility for the Transportation Department’s Essential Air Service program, which provides subsidies to maintain commercial air service in small communities.
Yesterday afternoon, congressional leaders agreed to take up the procedural maneuver during the Senate Pro Forma session. The agreement extends the funding of the FAA through September while Congress tackles the larger issues holding up full reauthorization.
Recently, the House passed a short-term FAA reauthorization including an amendment introduced by Rep. John Mica (R-FL) that ended federal subsidies for small regional airports in Nevada, Montana and West Virginia, home states of top Democratic Senate leaders.
Senate Democrats alleged that the tactic was designed to get their attention around an issue important to Republicans -- a provision changing the rules governing union elections also included in the bill.
Democrats complained that the dispute not only idled workers in a time of high unemployment, but was also costly to the federal government. During the stalemate, many of the major airlines kept passenger fees that would normally pay for federal transportation taxes