U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) today blasted both the House and Senate leadership for signaling the compromise debt ceiling deal would be the final vote until after Labor Day, thus leaving FAA programs and furloughed workers in limbo until mid-September.
"With 4,000 FAA furloughed workers wondering when they can return to work, Congress should not be eyeing an escape from Washington until a solution is reached," blasted LoBiondo, the only New Jersey Representative on the House Aviation Subcommittee. "While one week has caused financial hardship for furloughed workers and their families, a prolonged work stoppage will have a substantial ripple-effect to small businesses that contract with the FAA, particularly on the NEXTGEN project. This is absolutely the worst outcome for a struggling economy."
LoBiondo has aggressively pursued a solution to this stalemate from the beginning, meeting with FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta at his Capitol Hill office on Friday and having phone conversations with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Throughout last week and this past weekend, LoBiondo has met with House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor on this issue, stressing the critical importance of resolving the issue before Congress adjourns for its scheduled summer recess.
On Tuesday July 26th, LoBiondo reached out to both Republican and Democrat leaders of the respective House and Senate committees to find a common ground that would provide for a short-term extension of the FAA Authorization Act. In his letter LoBiondo stated his willingness to forge a compromise on the issue. His letter read in part:
With each passing day, I am hearing from more and more of my constituents who are frustrated at being furloughed through no fault of their own. These individuals have bills to pay and families who rely on them to help make ends meet. The uncertainty of not knowing how long these furloughs may last is taking quite a toll. In South Jersey, unemployment rates remain in the double-digits, and these furloughs will further impact the local economy in a negative way.
We cannot allow the hard-working and dedicated employees of the FAA, consumers, and the general public to be treated as collateral damage Each day that passes without any progress causes additional needless pain for my constituents and thousands of FAA employees across this country .I stand ready to work with you in any way I can to resolve this issue.
"I've sought out a compromise that my leadership in the House and the Obama Administration could agree too. It is long-past time for the Democratic leadership in the Senate and interested parties, including the labor leaders who represent the furloughed workers, to offer solutions. A quick resolution to this regrettable issue is very possible and in the country's best interests," concluded LoBiondo.
At midnight on July 22nd, 4,000 FAA employees nationwide, including nearly 650 in South Jersey, were furloughed. Additionally, aviation construction projects and work on the NEXTGEN project were halted by the failure of Congress to pass a short-term FAA extension. This would have been the 21st extension for the FAA, which has been operating without a full four-year authorization bill since 2007.