At airports across America, projects representing $11 billion in work and 70,000 construction jobs and jobs in related fields sit idle because Congress has failed to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. Now, Congress is going on vacation, without passing the simple FAA extension that would allow those 70,000 workers--plus the 4,000 FAA employees who have also been furloughed--to get back to work.
We are smack dab in the middle of the construction season, but we are watching a Congress leave town without putting 74,000 workers back on the job. Congress has been talking the talk on jobs, but they refuse to walk the walk. We have heard many speeches about creating jobs and putting people to work; well I can tell you, turning a blind eye is not the way we put people to work.
As U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer said, "This is a perfect example of the politics--not of persuasion, not of compromise, of coming together--but the politics of confrontation."
It's a shame, especially in this economy, to let the financial security of 74,000 families be caught in partisan debate. We are talking about families--good, working families, maybe friends of yours or neighbors--having to go without a paycheck. And if Congress doesn't act until reconvening after Labor Day, these families will have endured nearly 50 days without income.
Rent, mortgages, groceries, back-to-school needs, medical care, electricity--these expenses don't take a vacation; they just accumulate relentlessly. Meanwhile, members of Congress jet out of Washington, using the same aviation system they've turned their backs on.
And I agree. After nearly 35 years as a staffer in Congress, a House member, and now as Secretary of Transportation, I am dismayed by the persistent acrimony plaguing this simple extension. I have had many occasions to be proud of the practical compromises Congress is capable of. I staffed a Congressman for 17 years who worked with people across the aisle; I worked with my colleagues across the aisle in the House for 14 years; and I'm working right now for a President across the aisle.
Do you know what I've learned? The aisle isn't as wide as you might think.
We are fortunate that our air traffic controllers are still on the job, and flying is safe. We are fortunate that many airport inspectors have volunteered not only to work without pay, but to rack up expenses on their credit cards while they do their jobs. We are fortunate that we started from the position of having the best aviation system in the world. But, this is no way to run that system.
It's not too late. Congress may have recessed, but it has not adjourned, and our legislators can still act to pass a clean FAA extension. I urge them to do that.