As Congress races to avert a looming government shutdown, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) faces two threats when the clock strikes midnight on Sunday, according to The Hill.
In addition to losing federal funding, the law underpinning the FAA’s existence could also expire without being renewed, as its deadline coincides with the one to keep the government open.
The agency’s renewal passed in the House earlier this year but failed to advance in the Senate. This week, the Senate linked the FAA’s reauthorization to the broader effort to fund the government, but the proposal is unlikely to pass the House, which is considering a stand-alone bill to keep the FAA running, The Washington Post reported.
On Thursday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spelled out the seriousness of the situation in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
“It’s not just the shutdown: FAA is operating on a 5-year authorization that also expires this Sunday, unless Congress acts,” Buttigieg said. “This chaos among House Republicans must end so that Congress can do its job.”
While more than 13,000 air traffic controllers and 50,000 transportation security officers are expected to continue working without pay if Congress fails to reach an agreement, the Biden administration warned that travelers at airports could face significant delays and longer wait times, as during previous shutdowns.
“I want you to imagine the pressure that a controller is already under every time they take their position at work,” Buttigieg said at a press conference on Wednesday. “And then imagine the added stress of coming to that job from a household with a family that can no longer count on that paycheck. That is the consequence of a shutdown.”
He added that allowing the FAA’s authorization to lapse would also mean that it could not collect revenue, which would mean a “tax holiday” for the airlines that would probably be “unrecoverable.”
According to The New York Times, the agency lost more than $350 million during the short lapse of its authorization in 2011.
Buttigieg also said that a shutdown could curb the administration’s progress in reducing air traffic controller shortages because the FAA would have to stop training new air traffic controllers and furlough about 1,000 who are in the training pipeline.
“The complexity of the hiring and training process means even a shutdown lasting a few days could mean we will not meet our staffing and hiring targets next year,” he said.
Seventy-seven percent of critical air traffic control facilities were staffed below the level required by the FAA, according to a June report from the Transportation Department Office of Inspector General.
Sen. Maria, Cantwell, D-Wash., who chairs the committee that oversees the FAA, called on her colleagues to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government and an agency extension.
“A shutdown without [FAA] authorization is a double whammy on the workforce and technology upgrades that the FAA desperately needs,” she said in a statement. “Failing to act now will intensify pressure on an already strained aviation system and workforce, and disrupt travel for the American public.”
Nicole Wells ✉
Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.
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