The Federal Aviation Administration was headed for a partial shutdown starting at midnight on July 22 after Congress adjourned without approving the 21st extension of Airport and Airway Trust Fund taxes and spending authority. The shutdown will affect construction projects funded by FAA’s Airport Improvement Program and some 4,000 FAA employees funded out of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (air traffic controllers will be declared essential to public safety and have to work).
Failure to approve the extension came about when the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 243-177 an extension through Sept. 16. Unlike previous extensions, this bill is not a “clean” extension; meaning it includes policy changes to current law. The policy change in question would remove 13 of the 103 airports currently receiving Essential Air Service subsidies from the program, which would likely cause those airports to lose all scheduled air service.
“I’m very disappointed that Congress adjourned without passing a clean extension of the FAA bill,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Because of their inaction, states and airports won’t be able to work on their construction projects, and too many people will have to go without a paycheck. This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”
Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) objected to the House action in a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) “guaranteeing the Senate will reject the FAA extension.” In addition, the White House expressed its opposition to the House extension. The Senate introduced a “clean” extension that would authorize funding for FAA through Sept. 26 but no action was taken on it.