Congressional Inaction Drives FAA to Partial Shutdown Tonight
Friday, July 22, 2011

Congress left town this afternoon without passing a 21st extension of the authorization of the FAA to collect Airport and Airway Trust Fund taxes, leaving the FAA just a few short hours away from a partial shutdown that will mean furloughs for 4,000 FAA employees, including many represented by NATCA in the Engineers & Architects and Airports Division bargaining units.

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to return on Monday.

Transportation Weekly reported the following information about Friday's developments and what the shutdown will mean:

"The Senate tried "dueling UC requests" at 2:30 p.m. today. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Assistant Majority Leader, asked unanimous consent to pick up the House-passed extension (H.R. 2553), amend H.R. 2553 by striking section 6 (the new Essential Air Service provisions being proposed by the House), and send it back to the House. Republicans objected to the request. Then Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) asked unanimous consent to pass H.R. 2553 without amendment, and Democrats objected. Upon completion of the kabuki theater, the Senate adjourned until Monday.

"The shutdown will affect some 4,000 FAA employees funded by three appropriation accounts which are drawn exclusively on the Airport and Airway Trust Fund: Facilities and Equipment; Research, Engineering and Development; and Grants-in-Aid to Airports. Programs under those accounts will be suspended starting tomorrow. Funding under the Operations account (which includes all air traffic controllers and aviation safety inspectors) will not be affected, even though that account is partially funded from the Trust Fund, because it is the practice of the FAA budget office to spend all Trust Fund money for a fiscal year first, and once the Trust Fund money is exhausted, to start spending general fund money.  Since we are almost ten months into fiscal year 2011, all of the Trust Fund money provided for the Operations account for this fiscal year has already been spent. (In the unfortunate and - we hope - unlikely event that this Trust Fund shutdown lasts past September 30 into FY 2012, the FAA would have to change that practice.)"

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi on Friday joined PASS President Tom Brantley and AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other House and Senate leadership, asking for swift passage of an FAA extension. To read the full letter, please click here.

On Thursday, Rinaldi issued the following press statement on the matter: