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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Harry Reid Announces FAA Congressional Compromise! Real Deal Or Another Tea Party Trick?

Reid announces deal on FAA funding

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, announced Thursday that Democratic and Republican leaders have "been able to broker a bi-partisan compromise between the House and the Senate" to fully fund the Federal Aviation Administration.

"This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain," Reid said in a written statement. "But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that."

The dispute could be resolved as early as Friday, a senior Democratic leadership aide told CNN earlier in the day.

The aide described a series of "active, productive discussions" on the issue.

Earlier, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that President Barack Obama called House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday to discuss ways to resolve the matter.

The impasse has resulted in the furlough of roughly 4,000 aviation workers, as well as tens of thousands of additional layoffs in the construction industry and elsewhere.

The FAA has also been unable to collect federal taxes on airline tickets -- leading to a revenue loss of approximately $30 million a day. If the dispute continues until Congress returns from its summer recess in September, the federal government will be out more than $1 billion in revenue.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been urging members of Congress to return to Washington from their summer break and, at a minimum, pass a temporary funding measure allowing the FAA and other workers to return to their jobs.

The Democratic-led Senate went on its summer recess Tuesday without approving what would have been the 21st short-term funding extension for the FAA. The Republican-led House previously passed a short-term extension, but included some changes opposed by Democrats.

The dispute over the extension involves language in the House proposal that would reduce or kill subsidies to rural airports, specifically targeting some in Nevada, Montana and New Mexico -- three states with influential Democratic senators.

A larger dispute behind the scenes also is a cause for the inaction. Republicans oppose a recent National Mediation Board decision backed by Democrats that makes it easier for airline employees to unionize.

The board's ruling made passage of a vote to unionize dependent on getting more than 50% support of those voting. For example, if a company has 1,000 workers but only 200 take part in the vote to unionize, the rule change would require 101 "yes" votes for it to pass.

Under old rules, more than 50 percent of all workers eligible to vote -- or 501 "yes" votes -- would have been required for it to pass. Workers who didn't cast ballots were counted as having voted "no," making it more difficult for supporters to succeed.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told CNN Wednesday he blocked a short-term compromise bid proposed by Democratic and Republican colleagues because of the organized labor issue.

At a news conference Wednesday, top Senate Democrats blamed Republicans for the work stoppage.

"This issue has nothing to do with essential air services (at rural airports) and everything to do with a labor dispute between airlines and the American worker," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

In response, Rep. John Mica, the Florida Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said Senate Democrats have only themselves to blame.

"Senate Democrats had a House-passed FAA extension before them for two weeks but chose to do nothing," Mica said.

But LaHood said controversial items didn't stop lawmakers from passing extensions on other occasions.

"If you've got issues with labor, if you've got issues with money going to small airports to help airlines fly in and out, work that out," he said. "Don't hold the American jobs and American people hostage over controversial issues that were not a problem on 20 other times when Congress passed an extension."

As the dispute drags on, numerous FAA employees are being forced to dig into personal savings, prioritize their bills, and cut back on expenses in order to avoid financial devastation.

"We're pretty much going to burn through all of our savings within a month and ... now we're working on programs out there to give us no-interest loans," said Mark DePlasco, one of the furloughed employees.

"I don't think any of us can even fathom going without a paycheck for another month and a half or even longer."

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Agreement reached in FAA stalemate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says there is bipartisan compromise to end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration that has left 74,000 transportation and construction workers idled.

In a statement Thursday, the majority leader did not specify details.

But other officials say they expect the Senate to accept a House-passed bill as early as Friday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying the precise terms remain confidential.

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Sources: AP, CNN, MSNBC, Young Turks, Youtube, Google Maps

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