Nightly News | August 02, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Well, this doesn't solve everything. There's still enough congressional gridlock to go around, even though they acted on the debt ceiling. One thing that did not get resolved today, a stalemate over the Federal Aviation Administration budget. And partisan bickering on this one is costing real Americans, tens of thousands of workers, costing them their paychecks. Our report tonight from NBC 's Lisa Myers .
LISA MYERS reporting: In the last 10 days, 241 airport modernization projects around the country have been shut down, laying off 70,000 construction workers . Also sent home without paychecks, 4,000 FAA employees.
Mr. DAN STEFKO: We feel like we're pawns in a political game.
MYERS: Dan Stefko , an FAA engineer in Pittsburgh , says the loss of pay hurts everyone.
Mr. STEFKO: I'm concerned with whether or not I'm going to be able to pay my mortgage.
MYERS: Now the House has left town for the rest of the summer without ending the stalemate, meaning these workers could be laid off for five more weeks.
Secretary RAY LaHOOD (Secretary of Transportation): This is not the way to treat people. This is not -- the money is there for these construction projects to go on. All Congress has to do is pass a bill.
MYERS: The partisan bickering centers on the insistence of House Republicans that any bill to keep the FAA operating also curb costly subsidies for flights to and from 13 rural airports, some in the states of powerful Democrats .
Representative JOHN MICA (Republican, Florida): All we're trying to do is end these wasteful subsidies, some as high as $3,700 a ticket.
MYERS: Democrats accused Republicans of a stunning display of politics over people.
Representative STENY HOYER (Democrat, Minority Whip): Because they passed a bill and said to the United States Senate , 'Either you take it our way or it will be no runway and no highway and no way.'
MYERS: Meanwhile, the federal government is losing $200 million a week in airline ticket taxes. In most cases, that savings is not being passed on to the public but, instead, being pocketed by the airlines. Tonight the administration is pressing the Democratic Senate to give in to the House . But at this hour there is no deal, and that means 74,000 workers could be without paychecks for weeks. Lisa Myers , NBC News, Washington.