For the second time in as many months, the Federal Aviation Administration may temporarily furlough some 80,000 employees if Congress can’t reach a deal to extend the agency’s funding by Friday night.Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has held up passage of the funding extension bill, which would appropriate additional money for the FAA and federal highway transit projects, citing an objection to one component of the transit side of the legislation. The House unanimously passed that bill Tuesday, and the Senate has until midnight on Friday to also pass it before funding for the FAA runs out.
Complicating matters, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) accused Coburn of putting a hold on a $7 million FEMA emergency funding bill that, due to procedural rules, must be voted on before the Senate can move on to the FAA bill. Since the Senate passed a cloture motion on Tuesday to move ahead on the FEMA bill, they must tackle that bill first unless Reid punts on it, something he has so far refused to do.
Coburn wants to amend the FAA bill to remove a provision requiring states to spend 10% of their highway budgets on “transportation enhancement” projects, such as bike paths and green space improvements. On Wednesday, Coburn acknowledged on the Senate floor that his position would likely be unpopular, but insisted that it was, in his mind, the right thing to do.
“If the Senate wants to solve the problem with these two bills, we can split them up or we can keep them together but we need to end the enhancements right now until we get the highway trust fund healthy again,” he said, according to The Hill.
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