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As clock ticks, officials make last-minute pitch for FAA reauthorization

Top federal transportation officials called on Congress to pass a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill before heading home for the summer recess.

Editor's note: This article has been updated.

Top federal transportation officials called on Congress to pass a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill before heading home for the summer recess.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt issued the last-minute request as they met with contractors and construction workers at LaGuardia Airport Aug. 1.

About 4,000 FAA employees were furloughed without pay and tens of thousands of contract workers were forced to stop work when Congress failed to pass an extension of the agency’s operating authority and allowed it to expire July 22.

The failure to agree on a bill resulted in “stop work” orders being issued to dozens of FAA construction projects across the country, including a demolition project at LaGuardia.

“Members of Congress should not get on a plane to fly home for vacation without passing an FAA bill and putting thousands of people back to work,” said LaHood.

Eight construction and aviation organizations, including the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, signed an Aug. 1 letter to House leaders demanding a bill before the break.

Among other things, the letter highlighted the loss to FAA of an estimated $270 million dollars in aviation-related excise taxes over the previous nine days. FAA lost the legal authority to collect the fees when the extension lapsed.

“Leaving town without passing an FAA extension or a longer-term reauthorization bill will threaten to deplete the Aviation Trust Fund, which will have a long term negative impact on the national aviation system,” the letter said. “Critical safety and security projects will be canceled or deferred and thousands of jobs will be lost. Congress must not allow this to happen.”

Ultimately, however, efforts to convince lawmakers to address the issue failed. Both houses adjourned shortly after the pleas were made, and are not scheduled to reconvene until after Labor Day.

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