End to FAA mess in sight

The partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration could end on Tuesday if Senate leaders are successful in winning support for a House bill that would extend the agency's funding through mid-September. The House passed the stopgap FAA measure several weeks ago over the objection of Democrats, who said that the bill should not include cuts to rural airports. The House adjourned on Monday without any further action on the FAA.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on Tuesday that he is willing to accept the House bill in order to put 4,000 furloughed FAA employees back to work, even though he and other Senate Democrats are offended that House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., refused to remove the cuts to rural-airport subsidies. Most stopgap funding bills are "clean" -- meaning they make no permanent changes to the policy.

The resolution is by no means certain. Reid would have to pass the bill under a procedure that would require all senators to agree. Senate Commerce Committee Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has been among the most strenuous objectors to the cuts to rural airports.

One of the airports that would be cut off from rural subsidies is in Reid's home state of Nevada, a fact he made light of on Tuesday. "I do my best to protect the state, but sometimes you have to be reasonable," he said. "As we learned with this big [debt-ceiling] deal we've just done, sometimes you have to step back and find out what's best for the country and not be bound by some of your own personal feelings."

Reid also noted that up to 80,000 construction jobs would be lost if the FAA remains partially shut down. He said he hoped other Democrats would agree, but Rockefeller has not yet said yes. Rockefeller was meeting with Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood on Tuesday afternoon.

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