FAA Losing $30 million Per Day Until Congress Passes Funding

Jul 25, 2011 11:24am

ABC News' Amy Bingham reports:

Today 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees were told not to report for work, the government lost $30 million in airline tax revenue and $2.5 billion worth of airport construction projects were left abandoned.

For the first time in history, the Federal Aviation Administration has been shut down because Congress adjourned Friday without passing a bill to continue its funding.

The shut down does not affect TSA security screeners, air traffic controllers or flight safety inspectors in any way.

“I want to make this very clear. The traveling public’s travel will not be compromised,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “[Air traffic] controllers went to work all over America this week. People are flying safely all over America.”

In a conference call with reporters this morning LaHood said Congress' inability to keep the FAA up and running "is exactly why the American people are fed up with Washington.”

“We cannot afford to wait,” LaHood said. “Congress needs to get its act together, come back to Washington and get to work this week to pass an FAA reauthorization bill.”

In the meantime, projects such as plans to improve airport efficiency, inspections at five airports to approve runways for larger planes and engineering initiatives to design quieter approaches in and out of airports have all been halted, said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

"This is going to slow down our ability to expand to keep up with growing demand,” Babbitt said. “We just simply want to have Congress do its job and let us get back to running the safest and best aviation system in the world.”

LaHood said there is “no excuse” for Congress failing to at least pass a “clean” funding bill, like it has 20 times since the last long-term authorization bill expired in 2007.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin proposed such a “clean” bill Friday afternoon, but was met with objections from Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, who said the Senate should pass the House’s version of FAA reauthorization instead, which passed the lower chamber in April.

The House bill includes two sticking points for Senate Democrats. First, it cuts subsidies for rural airports and second, it rolls back a new law making it easier for airline employees to unionize.

“Let's fight this out next week or the week after,” Durbin said on the Senate floor Friday. “What I'm offering is neutrality, political neutrality, a clean extension. But what I'm afraid I'm going to get back is an insistence that if you don't take the House Republican proposal, we'll shut it down. I don't think that's a good choice for America."

"Let us as politicians do our battles here. Let's never do them at the expense of ordinary people across America,” Durbin continued.

Hatch responded by saying Senate Republicans were committed to passing a long-term funding bill like the one passed by the House, not another short-term extension.

“It is unfortunate that cow-toeing to big labor has effectively grounded efforts to get a long-term FAA reauthorization off the ground,” Hatch said.

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