FAA focuses on layoffs forced by fight in Congress

07/27/2011 12:00 AM

07/27/2011 12:08 AM

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers dug in Tuesday for what is shaping up to be a protracted fight over legislation necessary to end a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration even as the economic and social consequences of the shutdown widened.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he was unaware of any negotiations to end the legislative stalemate between the House and Senate that permitted the FAA's operating authority to expire at midnight on Friday.

The administration hopes to persuade House Republicans to reach a compromise by publicizing the airport projects that have been halted and workers that have been laid off in their districts due to the shutdown, he told the Association Press in an interview.

Thus far, there's been no movement, but he remains hopeful, LaHood said.

The FAA has furloughed nearly 4,000 workers, stopped the processing of about $2.5 billion in airport construction grants, and issued stop work orders to construction and other contractors on more than 150 projects, from airport towers to runway safety lights.

The agency issued dozens more stop-work orders on Tuesday. At least hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of private sector workers have been affected.

"It's frustrating," said Mike MacDonald, regional vice president of an FAA union representing nearly 1,200 engineers, architects, technicians and other workers who have been furloughed. "Why are we being used as pawns in this political game that has nothing to do with us?"

Most of his union's members "are like me — middle-aged with mortgages, kids in college and car loans," said MacDonald, 54, who has also been laid off. "It's scary."

GOP senators confirmed their intention to continue to block legislation to restore FAA's operating authority unless Democrats give ground on Republican proposals to cut air service subsidies to rural communities and to make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize.

A Republican-sponsored bill passed by the House last week to extend FAA authority through Sept. 16 included a provision to cut $16.5 million in air service subsidies.

Senate Democrats objected, saying Republicans were trying to use the subsidies provision to enact policy changes that haven't been agreed to by negotiators and to prod Democrats to compromise on the labor provision.

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