Remember the partial FAA shutdown? Harry Reid had blamed House Republicans for not passing an extension that funded the agency — er, wait, for not passing an extension Reid liked. The House did pass an extension that trimmed pork spending on the Essential Air Service, and more importantly reversed an Obama administration rule change that was nothing more than a payoff to Obama’s union allies. When Reid realized that even the mainstream media wasn’t buying his spin, he threw in the towel:
House and Senate leaders on Thursday brokered a “bipartisan compromise” over Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, ending — if only temporarily — a two-week standoff that had sidelined 4,000 FAA employees as well as 70,000 construction workers involved in airport improvement projects and cost the government tens of millions of dollars in uncollected revenue from the airline industry.
So what was the “bipartisan compromise”? The Senate will adopt the House bill by unanimous consent, which will allow it to go to President Obama for his signature. Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, will then have to waive the subsidy cuts under his legal authority, which will put the onus for pork spending squarely on the White House:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood could then use his authority to grant waivers to any rural airports faced with losing the subsidy, which helps them entice air carriers to provide service. If the airport authorities make a convincing case, LaHood would allow them to keep receiving the money, a Transportation Department aide said.
The subsidy cuts had been approved by the House but had become a sticking point for Senate Democrats, who saw them as a Republican tactic in service of a larger goal: forcing Democrats to accept anti-union language that had been included in a long-term FAA reauthorization bill the House had approved weeks ago.
Politico describes this as a “Hobson’s choice”:
Things changed, however, when the GOP-controlled House passed a long-term extension bill in April that neutralized a National Mediation Board ruling allowing airline industry workplaces to form unions with a simple majority vote.
Democrats cried foul, but Republicans, led by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chair of the House transportation committee, answered with a short-term extension bill that cut the essential air services budget, forcing Democrats into a Hobson’s choice: accept the anti-union provision, vote for cuts to airport subsidies in some key members’ districts, or allow the FAA to go without reauthorization and shut down.
Well, there was a third option. The Senate could have passed their own version of the FAA funding authorization extension, which would have created the need for a conference committee to resolve the differences between the chambers. That’s exactly what the process had been for the 200-plus years that the Senate existed before Harry Reid became Majority Leader. Instead, the Democratic leadership in the Senate chose to do nothing at all, hoping that Republicans would take the blame — and whining like spoiled children when the media surprisingly chose not to play along but instead ask the question of the year …
“Where’s your bill?”
This extension only lasts six weeks, so this fight will return soon. We’ll see if Reid plans to do any work in this session, or if Reid continues to turn the Senate into the Do-Nothing chamber on Capitol Hill.