Commentary: House has FAA in a tailspin

In another sign of dysfunction and intransigence in the House Republican caucus, the nation's aviation system has gone into partial shutdown.

Congress had been passing short-term funding extensions since the four-year "Vision 100 – Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act" expired in September 2007. Operations and projects continued while Congress debated a new long-term reauthorization bill.

But it all came to a halt when the 20th short-term extension expired last Friday. House Republicans refused to pass a clean extension bill, as they had in the past. They chose instead to attach a controversial provision in this must-pass bill.

So airports across the country have had to shut down modernization projects and stop collecting $30 million a day in aviation ticket taxes that support the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and keep the nation's aviation system functioning.

What is that one provision that House Republicans felt was so necessary that it was worth forcing a shutdown? Elimination of $16.5 million in subsidies for 13 rural airports. This program, created after airlines were deregulated in 1978, ensures service on less profitable routes in remote communities in Nevada, the Dakotas and elsewhere.

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