Obama Decries "Lose, Lose, Lose" Situation at FAA Because of Congress

Obama Decries "Lose, Lose, Lose" Situation at FAA Because of Congress

President Obama took aim at congressional inaction on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization today in remarks prior to a Cabinet meeting. Congress has failed to reauthorize the FAA to collect airline taxes. Consequently, 4,000 FAA workers and 70,000 construction workers have been furloughed and the taxes are not being collected. The President called it a “lose, lose, lose” situation.

While this has no direct effect on space activities, the situation is indicative of how dysfunctional Capitol Hill is these days. That could affect the passage of any number of bills, including appropriations for NASA, NOAA and DOD space activities.

The President said the government is losing $200 million a week in revenues because of the uncollected taxes. If the situation is not resolved while Congress is on its August break, that would mean $1 billion in lost revenue, according to the President.

Congress has failed to pass an FAA reauthorization bill since 2007. The portion of the FAA that depends on the revenue from the airline taxes has continued to function because Congress passes short-term extensions, 20 of them so far. The 21st extension is now pending in Congress. The Senate wants a “clean” extension that does that and only that. The House passed a short-term extension, but added a provision about reducing federal subsidies to small airports in certain states, including Nevada, home to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and West Virginia, home to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, whose committee has jurisdication over the FAA. The Senate has adamantly refused to pass the House version.

Both sides are pointing fingers at the other. Meanwhile, both chambers have gone into recess for the month of August, leaving the FAA and construction workers in limbo, and the taxes uncollected. As the President noted, the airlines continue to collect the money, but are keeping it.

The President called on Congress to fix the problem temporarily, saying it could be accomplshed without the Members returning to Washington and they could resume the debate in September. Although House and Senate members have left town, both chambers actually are scheduled to meet in pro forma sessions on Friday. A unanimous consent agreement could be adopted with a minimum number of members present if the two sides could agree.

The President ended his statement today calling on Congress to fix the problem:

“So this is a lose-lose-lose situation that can be easily solved if Congress gets back into town and does its job. And they don’t even have to come back into town. The House and the Senate could, through a procedural agreement, basically do this through unanimous consent. And they can have the fights that they want to have when they get back. Don’t put the livelihoods of thousands of people at risk. Don’t put projects at risk. And don’t let a billion dollars, at a time when we’re scrambling for every dollar we can, get left on the table because Congress did not act.”

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