Thousands of FAA employees and contractors returned to work on Monday, ending the two-week partial agency shutdown that furloughed thousands and halted progress on hundreds of airport infrastructure projects.
On Friday, the Senate approved, and President Obama signed, legislation to restore funding to the agency through Sept. 16. Congress is currently recessed for August, but will reconvene Sept. 6.
"On Monday 74,000 Americans will go back to work because the Senate passage of a short-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration," said Sen. Harry Reid (D- Nev.) following the Senate's passage of the bill. Reid expressed concern that after the Sept. 16 expiration, Republicans will furlough the FAA again. Lawmakers urged the passage of a long-term measure when they return from the August recess.
"It's vital that the House and Senate leaderships and respective communities, in the next several weeks, work to ensure the end of a [four-and-a-half] year delay in passing a long-term FAA bill so there will be no need for a 22nd extension," Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) said Friday.
FAA has been operating without a full funding framework for more than 4 years, instead operating under a series of funding reauthorization extensions. FAA went into partial shutdown July 22 after the latest short-term extension expired and Congress failed to pass another. Up to 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 construction workers were furloughed. The furlough resulted in more than $380 million in lost revenue for the government, according to industry estimates.
"We're relieved Congress has extended FAA's operations," said Marion C. Blakey, Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) president and CEO. "We urge them [Congress] to take advantage of this spirit of compromise to pass a full reauthorization bill when Congress returns in September."
The bill does not include payback provisions for the furloughed employees. However, lawmakers this week introduced a bill to compensate furloughed FAA employees for the lost time with funds from the Aviation Trust Fund. “For the past two weeks it was important to get these workers back on the job. Now my focus is to get them back pay and to ensure this avoidable situation never happens again,” said Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), who introduced the legislation in the House on Tuesday.