Friday, August 05, 2011

FAA goes back to work, no thanks to Congress

Not much to add to Loren Steffy here:

The 13-day shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration appears to have ended yesterday in a patchwork compromise, and although President Obama praised congressional leaders for “working together,” they really aren’t. It’s Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that deserves credit for breaking the stalemate.

As I wrote earlier, long-term FAA funding has been mired in a political debate over issues unrelated to agency funding. One pertains to how airlines unionize, and the other to federal subsidies for rural air service. Republicans in the House slipped the rural air provision into the emergency funding bill, and Democrats in the Senate refused to accept it. It was, in the words of Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a “procedural hand grenade.”

As I said earlier, rural air subsidies are definitely ripe for review, but they are always a political hot potato because no lawmaker wants to vote to eliminate subsidies in his or her own district. In other words, this isn’t the sort of measure that should be determining funding for the agency that oversees the entire commercial aviation infrastructure for the country. But as they did on the debt ceiling debacle, lawmakers gave politics precedence over national interest.

Relief came only after LaHood determined that he has the authority to waive the subsidy cuts, which essentially postpones them until Congress returns from vacation. That enables the Senate to approve the emergency funding by unanimous consent later this morning. But it’s important to realize that Congress did nothing to reach this temporary compromise. If the administration hadn’t intervened, 4,000 FAA workers would remain on furlough and thousands more private-sector construction jobs, including many here in Houston, would remain in limbo.

In the meantime, the shutdown has cost the government some $350 million in lost aviation taxes while lawmakers squabble over $16.5 million worth of route subsidies.

Once again, Congress has attempted to disguise dysfunction and delay as compromise. Lawmakers have resolved nothing, and taxpayers and the FAA will get to endure all this again when Congress returns from vacation.

The GOP is still whining that "card check" The Employee Free Choice Act legislation they continue to stall and obstruct is part of the problem, but that is -- as usual -- false, and a straw man argument.

The Tea Party's full-court assault on the rights of all Americans that aren't white and wealthy is slowing destroying this great nation.

Slow, hell. It's been pretty rapid from my POV.

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