Thousands of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees remained on furlough and billions of dollars in infrastructure projects stayed stalled as Congress failed to pass an extension to the agency’s now-expired reauthorization before adjourning for its August break Wednesday. The agency needs the reauthorization to collect a variety of taxes from users of the national airspace for the government’s transportation trust fund, and to pay employees and projects from that fund. Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other for the debacle. In an interview with Greenwood affiliate WLMA. GOP First District Congressman Tim Scott said the Democratic-majority Senate did not pass the reauthorization forwarded to them by the largely Republican House.
Senate Democrats point to a provision attached to the measure by Republicans would roll back part of the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes commercial flights at smaller regional airports mostly in rural areas. Democrats say the rollback targeted states represented by key Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Scott says the subsidies awarded to small regional airports in previous reauthorizations are simply too costly.
The last multiyear reauthorization ended in 2007. Since then the agency has been given temporary authorizations. The 20th temporary measure ended in June. Currently 4000 FAA employees are being furloughed. Aviation safety inspectors are deemed “essential” employees and as such must continue to work without receiving pay.
Anne Eller of WLMA Greenwood contributed to this story.