It’s not the most important example of bipartisan gridlock these days, but the legislation funding the Federal Aviation Administration expired Friday at midnight after House and Senate leaders failed to reach agreement on a routine extension. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that nearly 4,000 FAA employees will be furloughed, and the agency would shut down its Airport Improvement Program.
The dispute involves a long-term FAA bill to which House Republicans have been trying to attach language that would make it harder for airline and railroad employees to unionize. Senate Democrats resisted the language, so House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica sent the Senate an otherwise clean extension that striped some silly subsidies for little-used rural airports that just happened to be located in the states of three key Democratic senators.
So it was interesting to note LaHood’s press release announcing that the FAA will now be unable to fund $2.5 billion worth of airport projects “that could put thousands of people to work in good-paying jobs.” He then listed a few examples, starting with:
“Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida, is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate a major taxiway.”
John Mica just happens to represent Orlando.
Of course, millions of passengers actually use Orlando International, unlike the airports in Ely, Nev., Morgantown, W.Va., and Glendive, Mont., which receive subsidies not because their taxiways need rehabilitation, but because Congress is addicted to unsustainable rural boondoggles, especially when they’re located in the states of power brokers like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.
But hey, LaHood, who was a Republican Congressman before he joined the Obama administration, is just pointing out the consequences of Republican hostage-taking. For instance, he noted in his release that “the FAA also cannot give the state of Ohio over $10 million in airport grant money or the state of Virginia over $16 million for which they are eligible.”
Hmm. Where do Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just happen to be from?