10:06 PM PDT on Thursday, August 4, 2011
By BEN GOAD
WASHINGTON – Lawmakers struck a deal Thursday to restore funding to the Federal Aviation Administration, signaling an end to a partial shutdown that has cost the agency hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and forced an estimated 74,000 workers off the job.
The agreement, announced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , did not, however, come soon enough to prevent the temporary layoffs of scores of construction workers in Riverside County or avert a setback for a major Inland airport project.
“This partial shutdown has hurt a lot of people, it has hurt the economy,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer , D-Calif., moments after she learned a deal had been reached. “It’s not the way to run this government.”
Still, Boxer and other lawmakers expressed relief that congressional leaders from both parties had resolved the two-week impasse. Under the agreement, the Senate today is expected to approve House-passed legislation funding the agency through mid-September.
“It’s a bipartisan compromise, and it would fully fund the FAA,” said Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, “It’s unfortunate the Senate didn’t do it a week sooner.”
The deal came about as Senate leaders were able, by a maneuver known as “unanimous consent,” to approve a House bill extending the FAA’s operating authority through mid-September, including a provision that eliminates $16.5 million in air service subsidies to 13 rural communities. Passage of the bill is expected today.
Most senators have left the capital for their August recess.
Bono Mack had been in frequent communication with Republican leaders and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood throughout the stalemate. She was particularly concerned about Palm Springs International Airport, where the shutdown halted work on a $14 million air traffic control tower project, sidelining 60 construction workers.
“A good portion of them are unemployed and wondering how to feed their families,” Tom Nolan, the airport’s executive director, said hours before the agreement was announced.
Even with an impending end to the shutdown, those employees and nearly 70,000 like them who were forced off worksites at airports around the country would not be able to immediately return. It would take time, aviation officials said, for the projects to ramp back up.
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