Obama Urges Congress to Pass FAA Funding

Posted August 3rd, 2011 at 3:20 pm (UTC-5)
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President Barack Obama is urging the U.S. Congress to approve funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, to end the partial shutdown of the agency that oversees the nation's airlines and air safety.

The president described the impasse as an unnecessary, self-inflicted wound that has put thousands of people out of work.

He said the issue is not complicated and that lawmakers just need to approve the funding extension as they have done 20 times since 2007. He said Congress instead played politics and left town on recess without approving the extension.

Mr. Obama, speaking at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, said he has made calls to key congressional leaders, urging them to approve the legislation. He said his expectation and that of the American people is that the issue will be resolved before the end of the week.

He said the dispute could cost the government more than $1 billion in lost taxes on airline tickets.

Earlier at the White House, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a similar plea.

He said the 12-day-old shutdown has halted $11 billion worth of airport expansion projects. With funding stopped, he said 70,000 construction workers have been laid off, and 4,000 government workers have been furloughed.

LaHood said speeches by congressional Republicans calling for more job creation during the nation's sluggish economic recovery “ring very hollow” in the wake of the layoffs caused by the funding impasse.

LaHood said, however, that the deadlock over the agency's funding will not compromise the safety of airline passengers because air traffic controllers remain on the job.

The furloughed government employees work in research and support roles. Some airport safety inspectors have continued to work without pay and have been told to charge their government travel expenses to their personal credit cards.

The congressional fight about funding centers on a demand by conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives that $14 million in subsidies to 16 rural airports be ended, a provision Democrats in the Senate oppose.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, urged Republican House Speaker John Boehner to allow a quick renewal of short-term funding during the congressional recess, leaving the more contentious provisions of the agency's funding to be decided when Congress returns next month.

The partial shutdown, which started July 23, is blocking the government from collecting taxes on airline tickets, often about $25 on a $300 round-trip flight. That could cost the government $1.2 billion in lost revenue if the issue is not settled by September.

Most airline passengers are not benefiting from the elimination of the ticket tax. Rather than passing on the savings to the flying public, some major U.S. airlines have raised their fares to offset the elimination of the tax.