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Senate Clears FAA Extension for President

The Senate on Friday sent President Barack Obama an extension of current aviation law that will end the partial closure of the Federal Aviation Administration and put 4,000 furloughed FAA employees back to work.

The deal, passed in a nearly empty chamber during what was expected to be a pro forma session, extends the FAA law through Sept. 16 and includes about $16 million in cuts to Essential Air Service program, which provides subsidized air service to rural airports.

But under an agreement reached with the White House, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will waive those cuts in service to the EAS program.

FAA employees had been furloughed since July 23. The impasse also canceled FAA construction projects, resulting in the loss of at least 70,000 construction jobs.

Only two Senators were present for passage of the bill. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) asked unanimous consent to approve the measure, and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) acted as the chamber’s presiding officer.

The House and Senate left town for the monthlong August recess without resolving the impasse earlier this week. That led to partisan sniping — with House GOP leaders blaming Senate Democratic leaders and vice versa — over who was to blame if FAA employees and construction workers remained out of work for the month and the Treasury failed to collect nearly $1 billion in airline taxes.

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