WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — A short-term deal to end a 14-day partial U.S. Federal Aviation Administration shutdown puts 74,000 people back to work, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
The agreement, which the Senate was to approve at 10 a.m. EDT Friday, “does not resolve the important differences that still remain,” Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. “But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”
The two-week standoff cost the federal government more than $400 million in lost taxes on airline tickets.
Congressional officials said the deal, worked out late Thursday, arranges rubber-stamp Senate passage of a bill approved by the House last month, extending the aviation agency’s operations through Sept. 16, when both chambers will be back in session.
Only a few senators would need to be present for the so-called unanimous consent procedure, used when lawmakers are away.
Most lawmakers left Washington this week on a five-week vacation without resolving the FAA issue.
During the procedure, Reid or someone else deemed the chairman would say, “If there is no objection, the motion will be adopted.” The chairman would then pause a moment, followed by, “Since there is no objection, the motion is adopted.”
President Barack Obama said he was “pleased that leaders in Congress are working together” to put tens of thousands of Americans back to work.
“We can’t afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery, so this is an important step forward,” he said.
Senate Democrats had refused to pass the House bill because it cut $16.5 million a year in the Essential Air Service, a subsidy program that ensures that small rural airports that had commercial air service before airline deregulation maintained commercial service.
The breakthrough came Thursday when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told congressional leaders he could issue waivers for the 16 communities affected by the House bill’s cuts.
The White House had been coordinating discussions with LaHood, Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and others, The New York Times reported.
Reid had said Republicans were using the rural-airport issue as cover for an effort to change a recently instituted federal labor regulation that made it easier for unions to organize at airline companies.
The new regulation by the National Mediation Board — an independent government agency that coordinates labor-management relations within the railroad and airline industries — says union-organizing elections should be decided by a simple majority of those who vote.
Republicans want to go back to a 76-year-old rule that says in airline union-organizing elections, votes of eligible voters that are not cast should be counted as “no” votes.
Another standoff issue involved the number of flights to be added at Reagan Washington National Airport, The Washington Post reported.
The House bill would add 10 daily round-trip flights and the Senate bill would add 24. The chambers also disagreed on how airlines would be chosen to receive the slots, the Post said.
Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, vice chairman of the transportation subcommittee of the House appropriations committee, said Thursday he was “pissed off” at LaHood, a former Illinois Republican congressman, because LaHood blamed Republicans for holding up the agreement, Aviation Week reported.