FAA Fears Immediate Furlough if Short-Term Extension Doesn’t Pass

House Passes Short-Term FAA Extension Late Wednesday

For the 21st time, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a short-term FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 2553) late on July 20, extending funding of the FAA until Sept. 16. The Senate has yet to take action. The current extension expires July 22.

The 21st  reauthorization extension was introduced on July 15 in the House by Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL); Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI); and Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI).

The FAA has been operating on multiple extensions since the last reauthorization in 2007.

“It is unfortunate that we have been put in this position, again, by the current Senate leadership who refuse to negotiate in the best interest of the American public,” Mica said. “House and Senate negotiations on the FAA bill have resulted in significant progress over the last several months. However, it is time for the Senate to put the safety of the traveling public above their own political posturing and paybacks to the labor movement. Clearly, some in the Senate have made a political decision to put special interest labor provisions above the safety of our nation’s aviation system.”

The current language in the 21st extension contains controversial provisions including a House measure that would make it harder for airline and railroad employees to unionize, drawing a veto threat from President Obama.

The White House reacted to H.R. 2553 by saying the controversial provisions should wait for a long-term bill.

"The Administration strongly supports passage of a clean extension of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs, as the Congress has done 20 times without controversy, in order to allow bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to continue on a full reauthorization," the administration said in a statement of policy.

"H.R. 2553 includes controversial provisions that, because they have not been negotiated, needlessly threaten critical FAA programs and jeopardize thousands of public and private sector jobs," the White House statement continued. 

"Without timely passage of a clean extension, all of FAA’s capital accounts (Grants-in-Aid for Airports, Facilities and Equipment, and Research, Engineering, and Development) would be shut down, and approximately 4,000 employees would be furloughed. FAA’s ability to award new grants, including for infrastructure upgrades at airports across the country, as well as to move forward with vital testing and implementation of the Next Generation air traffic control system, would come to a stop."

The Associated Press reports that, in the event of an FAA shutdown, the nation's 15,500 air traffic controllers would continue to work, but other employees could be subject to furloughs, and the agency would no longer have to collect the approximately $60 per-round-trip ticket tax. The furlough period is dependent on the amount of money in the coffers of the aviation trust fund account.

“We are going to be forced to furlough valuable FAA employees unless this situation is resolved quickly,” said FAA Administrator Babbitt.  “These employees do everything from getting money out the door for airport construction projects, to airport safety planning and NextGen research.  We need them at work.”