SHAHEEN CALLS ON CONGRESS TO END THE UNNECESSARY FAA SHUTDOWN

August 02, 2011

(Washington, DC) –In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called on Congress to end the unnecessary Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shutdown and put people back to work.

Below are her remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, as we all know, eleven days ago the authorization for the operations of the Federal Aviation Administration expired, leading to a partial shutdown of that agency and workers being placed on unpaid furlough.

While I am glad we could come together to reach a bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid another financial crisis, I am deeply disappointed that bipartisanship has failed us here.

The House may head home for recess today for the rest of August, stranding 4,000 FAA workers and 70,000 airport construction workers who are out of work until we get an agreement. If they do so, the FAA will remain in partial shutdown for at least a month. I am ready to remain here in Washington until we can work out our differences with the House and send these people back to work.

Let me review exactly how we got here. Since the FAA’s authorization expired in 2007, Congress has passed 20 short-term extensions of the FAA. All of those bills – every single one – were clean bills intended to keep the FAA up and running while Congress wrangled over the policy issues that complicate a long-term authorization. But the 21st time around, the House decided it was no longer important to keep the FAA functional and these 4,000 people are out of work while the House of Representatives may head home for recess.

There are some significant differences between the two long-term FAA authorizations bills passed by the House and Senate, the most controversial of which center around a ruling by the National Mediation Board on unionization rules. That’s why Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Hutchison appointed Members to a Conference Committee where the House and Senate could work out our policy differences. Thus far, the House has refused to appoint conferees. Instead, the House decided to stop negotiating and play politics with 4,000 FAA workers and their families.

The FAA has been shut down for 11 days. As long as the shutdown continues, the government will continue to lose $200 million per week that would pay for airport maintenance and safety and for the replacement of our country’s outdated air traffic control system. If the shutdown continues through the August recess, we’ll lose over $1 billion in revenue. That’s waste of the worst kind and it makes our deficit problems worse.

Every day the shutdown continues has a very real, very painful impact on people all around the country. And the House should not leave for recess until we’ve ended this dispute and brought everyone back to work.

The FAA has issued stop work orders for 241 airport construction projects worth nearly $11 billion dollars that support 70,000 jobs. These are real people, who are being forced to make real sacrifices.

In my state of New Hampshire, a $16 million dollar project to rebuild the runway of Boire Field in Nashua will be delayed if we don’t pass an extension. Boire Field is the busiest general aviation airport in New England and breaking ground this fall on the runway reconstruction project would have created 50 jobs. Instead, because of this delay, construction likely won’t begin until this spring and those 50 people will have to wait. The tragedy is that they won’t have jobs not because they don’t have the skills or the project isn’t needed, but because we are playing politics with the FAA.

Forty-two employees at the FAA’s Air Traffic Control Center in Nashua, New Hampshire have been furloughed, and this shutdown is taking a terrible toll on them. Let me tell you about just one of them, Steve Finnerty. Steve is a civil engineer who has worked for the FAA for the last 15 years. He’s the sole breadwinner for his family of five. He has a young daughter and a pair of one year old twins, who are struggling with medical issues. He has already lost nearly two weeks of pay. He’s worried about how he’s going to pay the mortgage, how he’ll pay the doctors for his twins, how he’ll pay all of the grocery bills, utility bills, and insurance bills that his family needs. Now he’s facing the possibility of an entire month without pay.

There are thousands of people all across the country who are stuck in similar circumstance and they need to get back to work. We need to get them back to work. We need to get them back to work so they can pay their mortgages and their children’s college tuition and their medical bills. We need to get them back to work so they can continue to build a GPS-based air traffic control system, like every other industrialized country in the world.

Let’s pass a clean extension of the FAA and get people back to work.

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