A dispute over labor standards at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that left thousands of government workers temporarily laid off or furloughed while Congress went on recess was put aside Thursday after President Barack Obama called House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to negotiate for the agency’s funding.
“This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain,” Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Thursday. “But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”
Details of the agreement were not immediately provided, but Democratic leaders said it would not affect the agency’s union elections.
The blockade had forced the FAA to temporarily lay off 4,000 non essential personnel and halt work for 70,000 workers on airport construction projects, though top officials said air safety was not at risk.
The FAA has for several years been struggling by on more than 20 temporary funding grants from the government amid a row between Democrats and Republicans over conditions for its long-term funding.
But with Congress consumed by a crisis over raising the U.S. government borrowing limit, only averted by a last-minute deal, lawmakers left for their summer break without dealing with the FAA’s cash crunch.
The Democratic-led Senate and the Republican-run House of Representatives have been at odds over subsidies for rural air services and a dispute over labor standards and unions in the aviation industry.
The president pointed out that as well as keeping large numbers of workers off the job on repairing crumbling aviation infrastructure, the dispute was costing the government $200 million a week in lost tax revenues.
Airlines were still collecting taxes on tickets sold but may not be keen to give it back to the government, even after Congress is expected to restore funding when it returns to work in September, he said.
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