Senate passes FAA deal, Obama signs it

WASHINGTON -- A two-week standoff over funding for the Federal Aviation Administration ended Friday after warring lawmakers declared a temporary cease-fire.

The Senate convened for 45 seconds Friday morning -- with few members present -- just long enough for Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., to ask unanimous consent to approve a bill allowing the FAA to operate through Sept. 16.

With no objection, the bill was approved.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., who was presiding over the Senate, gaveled the Senate closed for its August recess.

The House approved the bill 243-177 on July 20. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted against it. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., voted for it.

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law Friday afternoon.

Senate Democrats had resisted approving the bill because it includes eliminating $16.5 million in air service subsidies to 13 rural communities, including Ely in Nevada's White Pine County.

Democrats said they worried that if they gave in to Republicans on this issue, Republicans would make greater demands on the next extension bill.

With Congress heading to its August recess, the standoff threatened to keep as many as 74,000 workers away from their jobs for a month. Reid announced Thursday that a deal had been struck to approve the House bill after the Obama administration assured them that waivers would be issued to protect rural communities from subsidy losses.

With all sides agreeing, the Senate was able to adopt the bill through "unanimous consent," a time-honored procedure to speed action on routine or uncontested issues.

The bill will allow 4,000 furloughed FAA workers to get back to their jobs on Monday. And thousands of idled construction workers will return to nearly 250 airport projects shut down when Congress allowed the FAA's operating authority to expire on July 23.

Construction of a $43 million air traffic control tower at McCarran International Airport was one of the projects halted. It should resume shortly.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at or 202-783-1760.


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