The FAA shutdown doesn't seem to be getting much coverage - probably because the media attention span has all been sucked into the vortex that is - or was - the debt ceiling crisis. But as of this moment, the shutdown continues and it's possible that it will go on into September since Congress is on the verge of recess.
They're basically going home without finishing their work. When's the last time you got to do that?
In the meantime, the shutdown is costing the government something like $30 million a day. By the time Congress gets back from R&R, the total will likely top an estimated $1.2 billion. So what's the holdup?
It's being described as a partisan standoff. Sheesh, that sounds familiar. Republicans say it's about cuts - mainly to subsidies for rural airports (places like Montana and West Virginia).
Democrats says it's about labor and making it more difficult for airline employees to unionize. In particular, Delta Air Lines has fought off union efforts by its employees and according to news reports, its CEO's lobbying against the issue has been cited by Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va. (Thanks, Delta.)
While they bicker, you and I and anybody else who flies should worry. Here's why:
-4,000 FAA employees are furloughed. Not air traffic controllers but engineers, safety inspectors and support personnel, like the people who approve federal grants for airport updates.
- Some FAA inspectors - the folks who travel from airport to airport inspecting runways and such - are still on the job, but they're being asked to foot their own travel bill for now. That's right. The inspectors are being told to put travel expenses on their personal credit card to keep the nation's airports are safe.
-Construction projects at the nation's airports, including a new radar system that's supposed to improve management of air traffic at BWI, have been halted, idling thousands of construction workers and delaying important upgrades to towers and runways.
It's possible that the Senate will put an end to this mess before they leave at the end of the week. They will do so by compromising - or giving in to demands of those holding the FAA hostage. Depends on your point of view. Let's just hope there's no compromise in the safety of our aviation system.
UPDATE: Never mind. False hope that reality would trump ideology. Senate now in recess until after Labor Day.