March 5, 2021

Reid Says Deal Has Been Reached to Reopen F.A.A.

The agreement signals an end, at least for a few weeks, to an impasse over policy issues that had left 4,000 agency employees out of work, idled tens of thousands of workers at hundreds of airport construction projects around the country and cost the federal government more than $300 million in lost taxes on airline tickets.

Congressional officials said the deal arranges rubber-stamp passage by the Senate, meeting on Friday under unanimous consent so that only a few members need attend, of a bill that was approved by the House last month. The House bill extends the aviation agency’s operations, but only through Sept. 16.

“This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain,” Mr. Reid said in a statement. “But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”

Senate Democrats previously refused to pass the House bill because it contained cuts in the Essential Air Service, a subsidy program that helps to pay for commercial airline service to rural airports.

The breakthrough came on Thursday when the transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, told Congressional leaders that he has the authority to issue waivers for the communities affected by the cuts in rural air service contained in the House bill.

Congressional officials said Mr. LaHood had indicated that he would review the affected rural communities for waivers that would postpone the cuts, but said he had not promised any specific action.

In a statement, Mr. LaHood said: “This is a tremendous victory for American workers everywhere. From construction workers to our F.A.A. employees, they will have the security of knowing they are going to go back to work and get a paycheck — and that’s what we’ve been fighting for. We have the best aviation system in the world, and we intend to keep it that way.”

The agreement does not address differences over labor issues that Senate Democrats said were the real reason that Republicans were trying to press for changes to transportation law in long-term F.A.A. reauthorization.

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