Prospects for a quick resolution to the partial shutdown of US FAA appeared dim Tuesday with arguing lawmakers holding firm and Congress's focus largely centered on the more high-profile debate over lifting the country's debt ceiling.
House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) continued to maintain that the FAA funding extension passed last week by the House, which included cuts to the Essential Air Service program, represents the chamber's action on the matter—placing the burden on the Senate to accept the EAS cuts and clear the House bill (ATW Daily News, July 26).
Mica told reporters that he has "no idea when we'll open FAA again" and insisted the cuts to EAS mandated in the extension would end subsidized air service to just three US airports (some estimates have put the number as high as 10). The FAA shutdown is "a pretty heavy penalty to pay for three airports," he said. The House-passed extension has been up for Senate consideration "since last Wednesday," he noted.
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) said the Senate will only pass a "clean" FAA extension that does not include the EAS provision, commenting that he is "appalled" by the House's actions.
"There is a standoff and I'm not optimistic that it's going to be resolved in the short term," Airports Council International-North America VP-Government Affairs Jane Calderwood told ATW. She said "airports across the country, large and small," have had construction projects disrupted by the shutdown. "The longer this goes on, the worse it is," she commented.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a Tuesday statement that Congress should "pass a clean FAA bill and immediately put thousands of FAA employees, construction workers, planners and engineers across America to work." Around 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed. ATC is not affected by the partial shutdown.