Funding bill deal averts FAA shutdown

Jan. 20, 2012 at 6:52 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Lawmakers have agreed on a funding bill that likely will avert a shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Senate's top Democrat said Friday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a statement released by his office, said some issues remain unresolved but lawmakers have reached a compromise on difficult labor-related issues that had delayed long-term funding for the FAA, The Hill reported. A short-term bill to fund FAA operations -- approved last fall after Congress was unable to agree on long-term funding -- is scheduled to expire Jan. 31.

"I am pleased that we were able to resolve the major obstacles in a manner that protects American workers, and clears the way for a long-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration," Reid said in the statement. "While some issues remain, there is no reason we cannot resolve them in the coming days and avoid any risk of another FAA shutdown."

The most recent long-term extension of an FAA authorization bill expired in 2007, and the FAA has been operating since then on a series of two short-term extensions, The Hill said.

A major point of contention is a National Mediation Board labor election rule that states when a federal transportation worker abstains from voting in an election on union representation, it is not counted as a vote against unionization. A House version of a long-term funding bill in 2011 would have reversed the NMB rule so abstention would be counted as a "no" vote.

The Hill report did not indicate how the issue was resolved in the compromise announced Friday, but it cited a Senate Democratic source as saying the compromise "should ensure passage" of a bill to fund the FAA for four years.

A spokesman for Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told The Hill the compromise allows Congress to "move ahead on this critical infrastructure measure that will help create jobs, modernize our nation's air traffic control system, and reduce the size of government."

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