telephone town hall last night, one of Gerry Connolly’s constituents said he was “appalled” that Congress went on recess before coming to an agreement on the FAA funding bill. Gerry quickly agreed that it was the wrong move and added that he had shared his concern with the leadership before they left. Considering how we’re in the middle of a debate surrounding how to reduce the deficit while also spurring job creation and economic growth, Gerry (like me and the town hall participant) thought it was wrong for Congress to leave for a month while 4,000 FAA employees and tens of thousands of construction workers were out of work and we were losing out $200 million a week in airline fees to the federal government.
Fortunately, it looks like the Senate has reached a deal that would allow a brief extension of funding while Congress works out the details of a long term deal. Gerry applauded the deal and said he hoped the Senate can use unanimous consent rules to pass the legislation. “Both bodies can wrangle over the contentious issues that are stalling the FAA bill when they return to Washington in September, but right now we need to pass some funding to put FAA airport safety inspectors and 70,000 other workers back to work,” he said. “These FAA workers and airport construction workers are not getting paid, their jobs aren’t getting done, and the taxpayers are being robbed of $30 million a day.”
Both during last night’s town hall and during his statement on the FAA compromise, Connolly praised the FAA airport safety inspectors who are using personal funds to continue to travel and do their jobs without pay. “I applaud their dedication to public service, but it is shameful that they are required to reach into their own pockets to keep our airports safe.” Interestingly, the dedication these safety inspectors
In my opinion, the action taken by the safety inspectors also shows how members of the general public realize that there are some programs like the FAA are truly worth a strong investment. The Republican leadership in Congress, however, doesn’t seem to be willing to listen to this concept as it was holding up the legislation to push for new restrictions on the right of airline workers to organize and to seek additional flight slots at Washington National Airport. Gerry also had some issues with the GOP leadership on this as he said “it’s ironic that the same crowd that preaches budget cutting was willing to let the federal government lose hundreds of millions of dollars and leave tens of thousands of airport workers without paychecks to advance their political agenda.”
UPDATE: The Senate did end up using the unanimous consent option today to pass the short term extension.