The House of Representatives on Tuesday quickly and unanimously passed a bill temporarily extending funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and federal highway programs.
Funding for more than a million federal employees and construction jobs was set to expire by Oct. 1 if extensions were not passed, and though both parties had their misgivings about the bill, no House members wanted to be tied to such a job loss. The FAA's funding through Jan. 31 comes from the 22nd consecutive extension bill since the last long-term funding bill for it expired in 2007. Highway programs will be funded through March.
The bill is now headed to the Senate, where two months ago a stalemate over the FAA funding extension resulted in 4,000 FAA employees being furloughed, several stalled airport construction projects, and about $350 million of taxes the FAA could not collect from airline carriers.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood lauded the passage of the bill, but noted that extending funding for programs right before expiration puts many workers on edge.
"The House's action today is encouraging, and I urge Congress to continue moving forward on an extension of FAA and surface transportation programs before they expire, which could put hundreds of construction projects and thousands of thousands of jobs nationwide in jeopardy," LaHood said.
The bill's sponsor, John L. Mica (R-Fla.), said he and other Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are committed to completing a long-term funding bill for both programs the next time around.
"This is not the time to bicker," Mica said. "This can't be another Band-Aid. We need long-term employment."