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Congress Reaches “Bipartisan Agreement” to Pass GOP’s FAA Extension


House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md., center, talks about the need to overcome the partisan standoff over a bill to end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) , Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. is on the right.

CREDIT: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) vowed Thursday morning that Democrats would not get rolled in future standoffs with Republicans as they were during the debt ceiling debate. But just hours later, Senate Democrats gave the House GOP another victory by agreeing to pass the House version of the FAA reauthorization bill to end a two-week-long shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced last night that a bipartisan agreement had been reached in order to reauthorize the FAA. As Campus Progress noted Thursday, the FAA reauthorization dispute centered largely over a unionization ruling for airline employees:

“Two years ago, the National Mediation Board reversed a long-standing rule that requires an airline union to win a majority vote of all employees, not just those who are voting, in order to become certified. The ruling put airline unionization laws on par with nearly every other labor agency in the U.S., but it has since sparked a wave of Republican backlash. Earlier this week before taking recess, the GOP-controlled House passed a reauthorization bill that overturned the ruling, but the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the measure and broke for recess before the issue was resolved.”

The “bipartisan agreement” passed today would overturn the National Mediation Board ruling, giving House Republicans a victory in the labor issue. The other primary sticking point, the Essential Airline Service (EAS) subsidy to rural airports, also will face cuts, albeit less than Republicans had originally called for. Still, the agreement was so similar to the House bill that the House didn’t even need to vote on it again. The Senate passed the House bill by “unanimous consent,” and it was sent to President Obama to sign. Essentially, the Democratic leadership surrendered to House Republicans once again.

In fairness to Democrats, the agreement only authorizes the FAA through September, meaning that the issues will be brought up again. Democrats also hope that the dispute will help paint the GOP as a party willing to hold the country hostage in order to get their way, as they arguably did during the debt ceiling debate. But to call the reauthorization a bipartisan agreement is a farce. Democrats simply gave in and signed the GOP-authored bill. Reid will try to change the labor ruling in the next FAA authorization dispute, but his chances of succeeding then will be slim to none. There is virtually no chance that House Republicans will agree to reinstate the National Mediation Board’s ruling, and GOP leadership can point to the fact that the Democrats had already agreed on the labor issue just months before.

The dispute next month will likely lead to another standoff and another partial agreement. If it does, it’s becoming increasingly clear which party will roll over.

Jeffrey Boxer is an intern with Campus Progress.

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