DOT, FAA Furious Over Congressional Inaction
Congress adjourned on Tuesday night without taking action to fully fund the FAA, leaving 4,000 workers on furlough, and officials were not happy. "It's a sad day for America," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, according to CNN. "I've been around this business a long time. I've never seen anything like this," Babbitt said. "And I find it appalling, candidly." He added that some of the furloughed workers will leave to find other jobs, setting back airport construction projects for months. President Barack Obama described the shutdown as "another Washington-inflicted wound on America," and called on Congress to break the impasse. Various issues have stalled efforts to reauthorize FAA funding, including disputes over subsidies to rural airports and language that would make it easier for workers to unionize. The failure to act before the recess means another five-week delay before FAA funding is addressed.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood also addressed the press on Wednesday, demanding that Congress should come back to Washington and pass a bill. "Leave your vacations!" he said. "Get off the beach … come back to Washington, pass a bill." LaHood added that about 40 FAA safety inspectors around the country are continuing to work for free. On Monday, Babbitt and LaHood had joined together to "demand that Congress pass an FAA funding bill before getting on airplanes to fly away for vacation," according to an FAA news release. Besides the 4,000 FAA employees, an estimated 70,000 workers in construction and related fields are out of work due to project delays. The U.S. government will also forfeit about $1 billion in uncollected taxes from airline tickets during the recess. LaHood and several other guests spoke about the issues on Wednesday on NPR.