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Reid Announces End to FAA Standoff

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced the end of a partial Federal Aviation Administration shutdown Thursday, saying that he will seek to approve the House-passed temporary extension.

As part of the agreement to pass the extension, which ends a nearly two-week standoff, Reid will look to send the House version of the bill to the president’s desk for signature. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood would then waive provisions regarding the Essential Air Service program, which assists Americans with subsidies to travel to rural areas.

“I am pleased to announce that we have been able to broker a bipartisan compromise between the House and the Senate to put 74,000 transportation and construction workers back to work,” Reid said in a statement. “This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain. But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”

Approximately 4,000 FAA workers had been furloughed, and 70,000 construction workers assigned to aviation-related project nationwide had been sidelined. The new extension will keep the FAA at full operating force through Sept. 16.

Republicans and Democrats could not agree on provisions regarding the EAS, which affected airports in the states of powerful Senate Democrats such as Reid, Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.).

Over the long-term, the two parties are also at odds over a provision in the multi-year FAA extension that would make it more difficult for unions to organize.

LaHood made a rare White House briefing room appearance Wednesday, minutes after a particularly charged Democratic news conference on Capitol Hill. LaHood, a former GOP House Member from Illinois, pleaded with Congress to pass the extension. Had lawmakers not acted, the government was at risk of losing up to $1 billion in tax revenues that the FAA was no longer authorized to collect.

Neither chamber will need to return to Washington to approve the bill — Reid will simply move it by unanimous consent during a pro-forma session, dispatching it to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law. The president said in a statement Thursday evening that he was pleased that lawmakers were cooperating to break the impasse. “We can’t afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery, so this is an important step forward,” he said.

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