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08.03.11

Shutdown Spat Heats Up

Though Congress has taken recess, Democrats are still needling the GOP for holding FAA workers “hostage” during the agency’s shutdown—while airlines are reaping extra profits.

President Obama said he "expects" a fix to the FAA shutdown this week. Meanwhile, top Democrats are jabbing Republicans for "hostage taking," saying it's the GOP's fault that the FAA has shut down due to lack of funding, putting thousands of employees out of work while Congress breaks for an August recess. "Unfortunately, Republicans continue to practice the politics of confrontation and hostage-taking," said Steny Hoyer, the House's No. 2 Democrat, in a press conference on Wednesday. "And it is severely damaging our economy." The shutdown, which will last at least until September, when Congress will be back to work out federal funding, has put 4,000 workers out of a job, and dozens of safety inspectors have been asked to work for free.

Speaker John Boehner is blaming Senate Democrats for the impasses, accusing them of trying to "play politics" instead of pass the funding bill that his House has already cleared.

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The Democrats accuse Republicans of leaving FAA funding hanging in midair while Congress is in recess for August. (John Bazemore / AP Photo)

But there’s one group that’s happy Congress didn’t get around to reopening the FAA: U.S. airline companies. Those carriers stand to make $1.3 billion off the shutdown, according to Bloomberg, by raising ticket prices to reflect the taxes the FAA is unable to collect. The FAA has forgone $28.6 million a day in aviation taxes since midnight on July 22, when its collection authority expired, and Congress won’t reconvene until September. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says it’s “unfair” that airlines raised their prices based on the absent taxes and is looking into ways to retroactively collect them.