Senate Averts FAA Furloughs by Passing Transportation Extensions

The Senate today passed legislation to avert a second partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, extending the agency’s funding for four months and highway and transit programs for six months.

Senators approved the legislation 92 to 6 after their leaders made a deal with Senator Tom Coburn. The Oklahoma Republican had demanded the bill, which the House approved Sept. 13, include a provision to let states opt out of a requirement to use some highway grant money for bike paths and other so-called enhancements.

Without a deal, about 4,000 FAA employees would have been furloughed starting Sept. 17 and work would have stopped on airport projects around the country. President Barack Obama must sign the legislation for it to take effect.

Coburn’s language will be added to separate legislation to reauthorize highway and transit programs for two years, John Hart, his spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the panel’s top Republican, promised that to Coburn so he would drop his opposition to the extension bill, Hart said.

“I am pleased that the Senate has reached a deal to pass an extension of our FAA and surface transportation programs, which will keep hundreds of construction projects going and thousands of workers on the job nationwide,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

Shutdown Effect

The FAA had to halt some operations, excluding air-traffic control, and stop collecting aviation taxes for 16 days after the House and Senate deadlocked on an extension of agency funding in July in a dispute over subsidies on flights to rural airports.

Most of the largest U.S. airlines raised their base fares by the amount of taxes they didn’t have to collect, with the six largest gaining at least $291 million in added revenue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

“Another shutdown wouldn’t have helped anyone but the airlines,” Greg Principato, president of the Airports Council International-North America, a Washington-based trade group, said in an e-mailed statement.

The bill would continue funding for the FAA and for surface transportation programs, which are funded through Sept. 30.

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