DOT: Washington Gridlock Threatens FAA, Immediately

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed his concerns Wednesday that disagreements between the House and Senate could halt FAA funded projects by Friday and the FAA warned that could lead to thousands of furloughs as early as Saturday. The problem is that a temporary measure to fund the FAA is set to expire Friday. And the extension passed Wednesday by the House includes new language that is unlikely to pass the Senate. Without the Senate's approval of that extension, some form of shutdown is expected to impact the FAA by Saturday. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed his concerns Wednesday in a statement released by the DOT. "Congress needs to stop playing games, work out its differences, and pass a clean FAA bill immediately," LaHood said. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt is already estimating the fallout if Congress fails to reach an agreement.

The FAA employs about 32,000 workers in addition to roughly 15,500 air traffic controllers. If the extension is not passed by Friday, a shutdown could be imposed that could essentially lay off 4,000 employees not directly involved in critical operations, according to the FAA. The work of controllers is considered critical, and they would remain on the job. The actual extent of the furloughs would be decided by the cash available in a federal trust fund for aviation and the duration of a shutdown. Non-critical workers targeted by layoffs include those involved in things like construction, safety planning and NextGen research. According to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, "We need them at work." The Senate's version of the extension bill included cuts for 10 airports served by Essential Air Services funding. The House is seeking to eliminate funding for three more airports and to cap federal subsidies at $1,000 per passenger. Other changes in the House's version would make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize by treating every non-vote as a "no" vote. That change would remove the current rule that allows unions to be formed by a simple majority among those voting.