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Reid Tries Last-Minute Push on FAA

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday was pushing to end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration by accepting a controversial, House-passed extension of the FAA authorization, but it was not clear if the rest of the Senate would cooperate.

The FAA has been partially shuttered since July 23, which has resulted in furloughs for 4,000 FAA workers and the loss of at least 70,000 FAA-construction-related jobs.

Speaking after Senate approval of a deal to raise the debt ceiling, Reid said he would accept the House extension, passed July 20, despite provisions in the measure opposed by Senate Democrats.

Reid said he hopes other Senators will do the same, but his words went unheeded. According to Reid’s office, at least one Senator objects to clearing the House-passed extension and will not allow a voice vote on the measure. In order to overcome a Senator’s hold, Reid would have to begin a time-consuming, days-long process to beat back an attempted filibuster. However, many Senators have already left town for the monthlong August recess, and Reid is unlikely to call them back for such votes.

The House extension, which was passed July 20, includes language to cut about $16 million in funding from the Essential Air Service program, which provides subsidized air service to rural communities.

Reid acknowledged that the cut would hurt Nevada. But he added, “Sometimes you have to step back and look at what’s best for the country.”

Along with the FAA employees, about 80,000 construction workers on FAA projects have been laid off due to the legislative impasse.

A multi-year FAA reauthorization that the House passed includes another controversial provision, which would make it harder for airline and railroad workers to unionize.

Correction: Aug. 3, 2011

The article misstated what legislation contained language that would make it more difficult for airline and rail workers to unionize. That provision was contained in a multiyear Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization that the House passed.

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