After a failed attempt to portray Republicans as “hostage-takers,” Senate Democrats finally decided to sit down and compromise with the GOP to end the temporary Federal Aviation Administration shutdown yesterday. And by “compromise,” I mean Democrats realized eliminating thousands of FAA jobs because Sen. Harry Reid didn’t want to give up millions in pork to his district probably wasn’t good for their public image – so they caved and decided to support the Republican bill:
Under the arrangement, the Democratic-controlled Senate on Friday will pass by unanimous consent a bill the Republican-led House passed in July that temporarily allows the FAA to conduct its business and slashes $16 million from the budget for subsidies paid to rural airports. That would allow the FAA to recall its furloughed employees and get up and running again at full strength – at least until Sept. 16, when the temporary extension would expire.
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.
By using the unanimous consent method to pass the bill, Senate Democrats may be able to dodge some responsibility for the legislation, because they didn’t technically “vote” for it – especially because many of them probably aren’t even in town today.
Also, if Ray LaHood does allow the rural airports to keep receiving subsidies – that’s the “pork” issue Democrats were blocking the FAA funding bill for – then the blame will fall squarely on the administration, instead of Senate Democrats. Either way, it’s not a bad outcome for Republicans, who are probably just as happy to pin responsibility on the White House as on Democrats in the Senate.