Although it's Senate Democrats who are refusing to debate and vote on a House plan to fund the Federal Aviation Administration through September 16, the New York Times editorial board today followed the lead of Democrats and MSNBC in slamming Republicans as 'hostage' takers.
'Republicans, who are experts at such maneuvers, have been holding the reauthorization of the F.A.A. hostage for months, trying to get Democrats in the Senate to agree to weaken transportation workers' rights,' today's Times editorial groused. That's a considerable escalation in rhetoric from the Times's July 28 editorial which hit the Republican stance on FAA funding as a 'sorry and cynical tale.'
Yet the alleged union-busting language is absent in stopgap House-passed legislation that would fund the FAA long enough to cover Congress's August recess, as Ashley Halsey III of the Washington Post noted this morning (emphasis mine):
There have been 20 short-term funding bills for the FAA since September 2007. Even when Democrats controlled both chambers, agreement on long-term funding was elusive. When the Republican-led House passed the 21st extension last month, it tacked on provisions about rural airports intended to cause discomfort for Senate Democrats.
This, said House transportation committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.), was done in the hope that an unpalatable extension might motivate senators to settle the differences between the long-term FAA funding bills passed by the House and the Senate this year.
But the Senate balked, demanding a 'clean' bill.
That brought to the fore the more contentious issue: The House's long-term funding bill seeks to undo a new rule that makes it easier for unions to organize airline employees.
It is on that issue — which is not even included in the House extension bill — that Mica, Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and other House Republicans are standing fast.
Even lawmakers who carried the debate to the Senate floor last week conflated and confused the issues and the different bills, so much so that aides more than once passed slips of paper to them so they could make corrections mid-debate.
What the short-term funding bill would do, however, is to end costly taxpayer subsidies to some lightly-trafficked rural airports, including one in Ely, Nevada, Majority Leader Harry Reid's home state, where taxpayers pay $3,700 for every passenger who flies through there.
While Democrats are complaining that they want a 'clean' stopgap bill, it's Democrats who run the Senate and could have easily voted down the House proposal or at least continued to meet in session the rest of this week to work on the matter.
The Senate's August recess was not scheduled to begin until Monday, August 8, but Sen. Reid requested a recess until 10 a.m. on Friday for a pro forma session. The Senate plans to meet briefly in pro forma session on various days throughout the August recess.
Yet to the Times, it's Republicans who are 'hostage-takers' when it comes to legislative authorization for the day-to-day operations of the FAA.