House-passed FAA Extension Hits Senate Ditch

 - September 15, 2011, 10:59 AM

Although the House approved a stopgap bill on Tuesday to avoid another partial FAA shutdown tomorrow, the measure has been bottled up in the Senate over procedural rules and the intransigence of one senator. Because the measure includes highway funding, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has placed a “hold” on the bill over a requirement that states must spend a small portion of their highway program money on bike and walking paths and projects aimed at drawing tourists. Without congressional action before tomorrow, the FAA could be forced to furlough workers and shut down airport construction projects, just like it had to do in late July when the last temporary funding extension expired. That idled 4,000 FAA employees and more than 200 airport construction and safety projects, while the government lost nearly $400 million in airline ticket taxes because the FAA no longer had the authority to collect the fees. Coburn pointed to the nation’s 146,000 bridges that are structurally unsound and said it is wrong to require states to spend money on projects that don’t enhance safety.