FAA left hanging as Congress leaves for August recess

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After weeks of focusing on getting a deal to avert the first ever U.S. default, lawmakers left Washington for their summer recess. But they left tens of thousands of workers without a paycheck because they could not even agree on temporary financing for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The partial shutdown of the FAA, which began on July 23, is now expected to last until at least early September, when the House and Senate return to Washington. And that could cost the government more than $1 billion in lost revenue from uncollected airline ticket taxes.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood insisted air traffic "safety will not be compromised" and all FAA safety inspectors are still on the job, even though will not get paid until the stalemate is resolved.

"For all the talk about jobs, here's a way to put 70 thousand people back to work just like that," LaHood said as he snapped his fingers in an interview with CBS News National Correspondent Chip Reid.

There are about 4,000 agency employees out of work and tens of thousands government contractors who are not being paid and will not get retroactive pay. Air traffic controllers and other critical workers are still on the payroll.

The partial shutdown is the result of a dispute over federal rules surrounding the ability of transportation workers to organize unions and subsidies for air service to rural areas.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who heads the Senate Commerce Committee which oversees aviation issues, blamed House Republicans for the shutdown.

"In a stunning display of politics over people, the House Republicans' insistence on attaching anti-worker provisions to an aviation bill has brought about a terrible stalemate that is hurting the economy. The House brought about a partial shutdown of the FAA on July 23rd, and their stubborn adherence to that partisan stance led us to this point," said Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner blamed Senate Democrats.

"The only reason 80,000 jobs are at stake is that Senate Democratic Leaders chose to play politics rather than keep their word and pass the House bill. That's indefensible, and they should end this crisis immediately," said spokesman Michael Steel.

  • Corbett Daly On Twitter»

    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.

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