The FAA Standoff: A Sign Of Things To Come?
It’s a familiar story: Republicans and Democrats in Congress, fiercely partisan and distrustful of each other, can’t agree on even a basic deal in time to stave off economic and financial disaster. I’m talking about the debt ceiling debate and the looming Aug. 2 deadline, right?
Wrong. Today U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood delivered some discouraging news: All the extra finger-pointing and brinkmanship we’ve come to expect from Washington these days has resulted in Congress’ failure to pass even a simple extension of Federal Aviation Administration spending.
That means work on dozens of airport upgrades across the country - including new air traffic control towers in Palm Springs, Las Vegas and Oakland, as well as a lucrative $370 million design contract with Pasadena-based Jacobs Engineering - all came to a screeching halt.
What’s more worrisome: Some 4,000 FAA administrators for these projects and many more privately contracted construction workers are off the job indefinitely and risk losing their jobs entirely if the impasse in Washington doesn’t end soon.
In a phone conference with reporters today, LaHood (a former Republican Congressman from Illinois before taking the reigns as President Obama’s transportation secretary), called on lawmakers to pass a “clean” bill free of the controversial provisions added by House Republicans to end subsidies to small, rural airports and save that debate “for a later day.”
Naturally, one reporter asked if this partisan standoff had anything to do with the fast-approaching debt-ceiling deadline. LaHood said the two issues had nothing to do with each other. But they sure do have a lot in common. We’ll see if this standoff over FAA funding isn’t a chronicle of a government default foretold…