the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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President Obama: FAA Shutdown a “Washington-Inflicted Wound on America”

A stalemate over the FAA budget is keeping 70,000 workers away from jobs at airports across the country and has cost $250 million in tax revenue

The President today urged Congress to resolve another impasse that is impacting our country’s ability to grow and thrive.

“And there is another stalemate in Congress right now involving our aviation industry which has stalled airport construction projects all around the country – and put the jobs of tens of thousands of construction workers and others at risk – because of politics.  It’s another Washington-inflicted wound on America, and Congress needs to break that impasse now so these folks can get back to work.”

Since Congress refused to approve its budget 11 days ago, the Federal Aviation Administration has been without the authorization to go about a portion of its daily business, which is costing taxpayers money and putting Americans out of work. The shutdown lifted the requirement for airlines to collect certain ticket taxes, resulting in a loss of $250 million in revenue so far that would have gone to a trust fund that helps pay for airport infrastructure projects. A shutdown through August could raise that total to more than $1 billion.

The agency has been forced to issue 200 stop-work orders and turn 70,000 construction workers away from their jobs at airports across the country. The FAA also put approximately 4,000 public servants on unpaid leave in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. 

Every day this situation continues, the consequences mount, wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in The Hill today:

“Runway paving, rehabilitation and extension projects are on hold. America’s transition from the radar-based airspace management system of the 20th century to the satellite-based airspace management system of the future is at a standstill.

Worst of all, the American people are paying the economic toll. At a time when 1 in 5 construction workers is looking for employment, 70,000 will idle away the peak of construction season at home, without pay.

On 20 occasions since 2007, the Congress has passed short-term measures to keep the FAA up and running. This is an imperfect solution because it creates enormous uncertainty for states, airports and contractors, but at least it keeps American workers on the job site. There is absolutely no reason that Congress can’t pass another temporary fix while it works out the details of a longer-term vision for the future of America’s air transportation system.”

LaHood, who served 14 years in Congress, is asking his former colleagues to act before they leave on their summer breaks. “Don’t race to your departure gate while leaving America’s air transportation system grounded. With one act — with a vote that you’ve already cast 20 times — you can put almost 75,000 people back to work immediately. For the sake of our communities, our economy and the best aviation system in the world, let’s give the politics an August rest — and cut American workers a much-needed break.”