ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:
One key House Republican is objecting to the Obama administration’s accusation that the GOP was holding the FAA hostage during the agency’s funding impasse, dismissing the partisan charge as “bull—-” just before lawmakers reached an agreement this afternoon.
Rep. Steven LaTourette, a graduate of the University of Michigan, noted that lawmakers “spend a lot of time here attempting not to be impolite” … “but it’s time to not be impolite [sic] as we deal with this crisis.”
“It’s a long-standing tradition if you go to watch a football game in the Big House, when the referee makes a call that is questionable, 105,000 people go, ‘bull—-,’” LaTourette cursed, coughing his way through the slur. “It is time to declare B.S. on the message that is occurring currently on the aviation bill and strip away what’s going on.”
LaTourette, the vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, said that House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could strike a deal on an extension, but two rival senators — Sens. Tom Coburn and Jay Rockefeller — have disagreed on the solution.
“The hostage takers here are not the tea party. The hostage takers here are not the House Republicans. The hostage takers here aren’t even anybody in the United States House – Republican or Democrat,” LaTourette, R-Ohio, said as he placed a picture with headshots of the senators on an easel. “Here are the two people, for reasons of their own, who have the ability and have had the ability since July the 20th, to make this problem go away.”
LaTourette said that earlier this week, Boehner had dispatched him to the Senate to see if he could persuade Coburn to drop his opposition to a clean-extension, but the Oklahoma senator refused and continued to push his amendment on Essential Air Services (EAS), which was included in the House-passed bill.
Coburn’s amendment would prevent taxpayers from subsidizing airfare beyond $1000 per passenger, and 90 miles from a major airport hub – essentially cutting off subsidies for 13 rural airports. Although Reid said he could agree to the House bill that contains the Coburn language, Rockefeller objected – lobbying instead for a clean-extension.
Late this afternoon, Senate Democrats agreed to pass the House-passed extension, and are expected to vote on the measure Friday during a pro forma session. Not every senator will need to be present for the vote. Instead, the measure is expected to be passed via unanimous consent.
Since lawmakers passed the debt limit deal earlier this week, the standoff over the FAA has intensified, with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood suggesting Wednesday that lawmakers skirted their responsibility to pass an extension and instead went on summer vacation.
“Come back to Washington! Leave your vacations! Just for a couple hours, come back, Congress!” LaHood said at the White House press briefing Wednesday. “End your vacation for a couple days, get off the beach, get out of your mobile homes or whatever you're traveling in, come back to Washington, pass a bill.”
LaTourette criticized LaHood for suggesting that members skirted their constitutional responsibilities in favor of summer vacation, and pointed out that one key player in the discussions, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-New Jersey, was home in his district “burying his mother.”
“For our friend, and classmate, the Secretary of Transportation, to stand behind a podium in the White House press briefing room, and wave his arms and say things like, ‘you just need to come back from vacation, just come back for a couple of hours and fix this, the House Republicans are taking this matter hostage,’ is – it’s vulgar,” LaTourette said. “I think that the secretary owes Frank an apology.”
Still, LaTourette pointed out that the House-passed legislation grants LaHood with the unilateral power to waive the Coburn rule.
“The secretary may waive [the Coburn rule] with respect to a location – any location – if the secretary determines that the geographic characteristics of the location result in undue difficulty in accessing the nearest medium or large hub airport,” LaTourette said. “The secretary, in the [House] extension, has the unbridled authority to grant a waiver for one of these airports, or all 13 of them.”