Forgotten during all the fuss over the apocalyptic rhetoric over the impending federal debt default is that the Federal Aviation Administration has been shutdown for a week. Except for a few construction workers thrown out of work at McCarran International Airport, have you missed it?
You might have thought it was all about some skinflinty Republicans being stingy with the subsidies that keep air service operating in small towns like Ely and Glendive, Mont., and poking a stick in the eyes of key Democrats such as Nevada’s Harry Reid and Montana’s Max Baucus.
I’m sure you read that the subsidy for the Ely air service amounts to $3,720 per passenger and perhaps that Glendive’s is $1,358. The House bill from Florida Republican John Mica would cap subsidies at $1,000 per passenger.
It turns out the Senate Democrats did not reject the House-passed FAA because a few of their constituents might have to take up hitchhiking, but to protect chief breadwinners — unions.
The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post reported a couple of days ago that the real sticking point is a provision in the bill that would take away an Obama administration sop to the railroad and airline unions. In 2010 the National Mediation Board, after being stacked with union appointees by Obama, overturned a 1930s-era rule on how union elections are counted.
In the past, in order to form a union a majority of all of a railroad’s or airline’s workers had to vote in the affirmative. The new rule said only a majority of those who voted was needed.
But returning to what was the law just two years ago is unthinkable to Senate Democrats, who, like so often is the case, have managed to blame Republicans for this impasse.