An 11th-hour attempt failed to break a deadlock over a short-term Federal Aviation Administration bill before the August congressional recess began on Aug. 2, raising the prospect of a extended, severe cutback to airport construction around the country.
Since the last aviation stopgap expired at midnight on July 26, FAA has had to issue stop-work orders for $10.5 billion in contracts, including nearly $800 million in airport construction projects that were under way.
In a second blow to construction, the lack of a new bill prevents FAA from approving new Airport Improvement Program (AIP) construction grants since July 26, holding up awards of $2.5 billion in airport infrastructure funds.
Also lapsing on July 26 was the FAA’s authority to collect airline passenger ticket taxes, which feed the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. FAA has said the aviation tax cutoff is costing it $30 million per day, or a total of $360 million as of Aug. 3.
If there is no resolution until Congress returns after Labor Day, the foregone aviation taxes over that period would exceed $1.2 billion. The trust fund finances AIP and if its income is reduced, that could diminish aid for future airport grants.
President Obama said on Aug. 3, “This is a lose-lose-lose situation that can be easily solved if Congress gets back into town and does its job.”
He added, “This is an example of a self-inflicted wound that is unnecessary ant my expectation and I think the American people’s expectation is that this gets resolved before the end of this week.”
He urged that Congress return to end the stalemate and pass a bill. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Congress should pass a “clean” FAA extension, without policy-related provisions.
Although the August recess has begun, the House has scheduled pro-forma sessions, which could provide an opportunity to pass a new bill.
But 12 days into the stalemate, congressional Democrats and Republicans still seemed far apart, and each side claimed the other is to blame for the deadlock