Update: Despite admitting that his demands are extreme, Harry Reid refused to approve the stopgap funding measure for the FAA, thereby ensuring a partial shutdown until September.
Throughout the debt ceiling fight, Harry Reid purported to be the only true compromiser, while painting the Tea Party as extreme hostage takers. However, unlike most hostage takers, tea partiers made no demands of government for their own personal gain. They simply wanted to preclude their children and grandchildren from incurring permanent indebtedness. Harry Reid, on the other hand, has shown us the true meaning of hostage taking. And he is now admitting it.
While the public was focused on the potential government shutdown over the debt ceiling debate, Harry Reid quietly forced a partial shutdown of the FAA. For months, Reid has blocked a long-term extension of the FAA reauthorization, while forcing Congress to pass reckless short-term measures that lacked much-needed reform.
The last extension expired July 23, but Harry Reid has refused to consider the House-passed extension through September. The House bill cut a subsidy program to three rural airports, where the cost of subsidized flights was hopelessly uneconomical. One of those airports, White Pine County Airport in Ely, Nevada, enjoys a subsidy to the tune of $3,720 per passenger! [Read more about it here] Yet, Reid refused to relinquish his selfish pork, causing a partial shutdown of the FAA and the furloughing of 4,000 employees. Additionally, the shutdown has cost the government millions in lost revenue from taxes on airline tickets. So much for a balanced approach on revenue.
Over the past two weeks, Reid and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller have engaged in the predictable art of projection. They blamed Republicans for being extreme and unwilling to compromise, even though they were the ones who passed all the bills. The FAA reauthorization fight was virtually a microcosm of the broader debt ceiling fight.
Well, facing the prospect of laying off thousands of workers for the entire summer recess, Senator Reid has finally had an epiphany. It looks like the good senator will be passing the House extension by unanimous consent:
“The Essential Air Service is a program that I believe in, but I also believe that $3,500 per passenger is a little extreme, Reid told reporters. “And I do my best to protect the state, but sometimes you have to be reasonable.”
He said that not extending the FAA authorization would do serious damage to his state.
“I have said that we have 80,000 jobs at least on the line,” Reid said. “In Nevada, as an example, we have a new airport tower there where they started the construction about two weeks ago. All those people have been laid off. That’s a huge project. I don’t know, but it’s nearly a $100 million project.” (emphasis added)
It’s good to know that Harry Reid is finally cognizant of the extent of his extremism. He also knows that ultimately not every government shutdown will be blamed on the GOP. One day, Republicans will realize that as well.