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FAA Set to Recall Workers, Resume Full Operation on Senate Vote

Reid Spokesman Says Agreement Has Been Reached to Reopen FAA
Planes take off at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Photographer: Chris Rank/Bloomberg

The Federal Aviation Administration is preparing to recall 4,000 furloughed workers and resume collecting airline ticket taxes as the U.S. Senate votes today on legislation to temporarily end a standoff over the agency’s funding.

A deal reached by lawmakers yesterday calls for the Senate to accept a House-passed bill to extend the FAA’s authority through Sept. 16 and eliminate $16.6 million in subsidies for flights to 13 rural airports, said Vincent Morris, a spokesman for Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The Senate will meet at 10 a.m. in Washington for that purpose, he said.

The FAA estimates it has lost $371.8 million in taxes, including on airline tickets, jet fuel and cargo, since its revenue-raising authority expired July 22, when the House of Representatives and the Senate failed to agree on an extension bill. The deadlock also stopped the agency from distributing $2.5 billion in grants for airport projects around the country, idling 70,000 construction workers, according to the government.

“I am pleased to announce that we have been able to broker a bipartisan compromise between the House and the Senate to put 74,000 transportation and construction workers back to work,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Rural airports that stand to lose subsidies under the House bill include those in Ely, Nevada, in Reid’s home state, and in Morgantown, West Virginia, represented by Rockefeller.

Once the Senate adopts the bill, it can go straight to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Airport Waivers

As allowed under existing law, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will grant waivers to individual airports on a case-by-case basis, an administration official said on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

The agency has been operating on a series of 20 short-term extensions since 2007, when its last multiyear funding authorization ran out.

The House passed a four-year, $59.7 billion reauthorization proposal in April. Before the bill was approved, Obama’s advisers said they would recommend vetoing it over a provision that would make it more difficult for airline workers to choose union representation.

Republicans and Democrats have been divided over the labor issue and over the subsidies for rural airports. Obama has spoken with House Speaker John Boehner about resolving the dispute, said Jay Carney, a White House spokesman.

“This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain,” Reid said in the statement. “But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”

The Senate passed a $34.6 billion, two-year reauthorization measure in February without the labor provision.

Mike Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in an e-mail the lawmaker is “pleased” the Senate agreed to pass the House-approved extension bill.

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