Saturday, August 06, 2011

Obama Signs FAA Bill Extension Held Up By Democrats

Before winging off to Camp David for the weekend, President Obama signed the bill to end the partial shutdown of the FAA.

The shutdown, which began July 23, is estimated to have cost the federal government $30 million because taxes that are normally collected on airline ticket purchases were unable to be deposited in the Aviation Trust Fund.

In addition to the 4,000 furloughed FAA workers, transportation observers said another 70,000 workers were placed out of work because about 200 airport construction projects were canceled during the impasse.

Earlier this week, Obama had called the shutdown of the FAA an "example of how undone work in Washington can have an adverse effect on the economy."

Under scrutiny of industry experts, the 70,000 number is debatable. Some have stated in interviews that the number may have been boosted by three times the amount of workers actually affected.

So how did we get here? The shutdown happened because Democrats refused to accept the bill with spending cuts, insisting on a clean bill instead.

With Obama's signature, furloughs for 4,000 FAA workers come to end and the beleaguered agency will be funded through Sept. 16.

Negotiations on the bill had been bogged down by provisions in the House version that cut subsidies for flight service to 13 rural airports, including facilities in Montana, Nevada and West Virginia.

The Democrats didn't want to give up the pork projects. The subsidies mean votes. When questioned by ABC News Jonathan Karl on the fact that the Democrats were causing the shutdown, though they were holding a press conference to blame the GOP, the Democrats turned ugly on the press. Not used to being held accountable or questioned with real fact gathering questions, not softballs, Senator Schumer, in particular, went testy.

Schumer claimed the GOP were holding the bill "hostage" and "holding a gun" to the heads of Democrats demanding spending cuts. Where's the new tone, Chuck?

Wednesday, Democratic Senators and House Whip Steny Hoyer held a press conference to blame Republicans for the FAA shutdown. Thursday, after the press conference, they announced a deal. This morning, the Senate voted to a pass bill it could have passed in order to avoid the 13-day FAA shutdown.

Funny thing, though. When questioned and actually held accountable, the Democrats suddenly saw the light. The bill was passed after a deal was struck and then the President was able to sign it Friday. Coincidence?

On Thursday, Congress reached a bipartisan compromise to end the two-week long shutdown and temporarily extend funding for the FAA. This morning, the Senate was in session for just seconds to pass the bill by unanimous consent.

One of the loud ones at the press conference was Senator Barbara Boxer. She called the reporter "naive". Nice, huh? She called foul on Republicans using the bill to get spending cuts. Another funny thing - she seems to forget she has a history in this area, too.

Sen. Barbara Boxer chided Karl for showing "a certain naivete" in not understanding that "this is about government threats." She also challenged Karl by asking if he had reported on GOP opposition to a vote on a "clean" bill. "Clean" here means no pork cuts.

Boxer seemed to have forgotten that she blocked a vote on the House bill. As Roll Call reported on Aug. 2, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, offered his own unanimous consent agreement to pass the House bill, which would then have gone to the president for his signature. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who was pushing to end the partial shutdown, said earlier in the day that he would be willing to accept the House extension.

But Boxer objected, and Democrats blamed Republicans for the impasse.

The days of Democrats shutting the process down and then blaming Republicans for it may be limited. That would be true progress.

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