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US Congress in deal to end aviation gridlock
Bi-partisan agreement ends a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2011 10:14
The US transportation secretary called the prospect of passage a 'tremendous victory' for workers [Reuters]

Congressional leaders in the US have struck a deal to resolve a partisan dispute to end a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The standoff, which began on July 22, was due to differences over the full funding of the agency.

With no legislation in place to authorise FAA funding, airline companies were not required to collect a 7.5 per cent passenger tax assessed on the tickets passengers buy.

Most, like Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, US Airways and Southwest Airlines had raised their fares by that amount and stood to earn more than $1bn had the shutdown lasted until Congress returned.

"I am pleased to announce that we have been able to broker a bipartisan compromise between the House and the Senate," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement.

Reid said the deal did not resolve underlying differences that held up the latest in a series of stop-gap FAA funding extensions and that they could re-emerge later.

The latest extension, and others approved since 2007, authorise the FAA to tap available funds from a federal trust account that is funded by ticket taxes to help cover some of the agency's costs.

The temporary extensions aim to bridge the gap to a long-delayed bill still being negotiated on the long-term FAA budgeting and aviation plans.

The agreement announced by Reid essentially found a route around contentious issues, allowing the Senate to pass the temporary measure, which had previously been cleared by the House of Representatives.

Congress is adjourned for the first week of August so the Senate will use a procedure not requiring politicians to return for a vote.

The US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the prospect of passage a "tremendous victory" for workers.

The shutdown has affected about 70,000 jobs related to airport construction and nearly 4,000 FAA positions, government officials said.

The compromise came after President Barack Obama stepped up pressure on politicians already bruised by weeks of partisan wrangling over legislation to raise the US debt limit.

The FAA deadlock hinged on cutting more than $16m in subsidies for rural air services, which was a key demand by the Republican led House.

Source:
Agencies
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