Efforts in Congress to end FAA shutdown: LaHood

WASHINGTON Mon Aug 1, 2011 4:21pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Key members of the Congress sought ways on Monday to end a partial shutdown of federal aviation programs that has disrupted thousands of jobs but the outcome of that effort was uncertain.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he spoke with senior members of the House of Representatives and Senate about forging an agreement to end the 10-day standoff over Federal Aviation Administration funding that has halted airport construction projects and prompted furloughs of 4,000 FAA staff.

LaHood told reporters in a conference call that he spoke with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, other leaders and senior staff about efforts to negotiate an agreement before lawmakers recess this week for the rest of August.

"They're focusing on this like a laser beam now that the debt and deficit (deal) has been solved and there will be a vote on that," LaHood said of a hard-fought agreement on Sunday to raise the U.S. debt limit and cut the budget deficit that has consumed Congress and the White House in recent weeks.

LaHood, a former Republican member of Congress, would not speculate about whether a deal to end the FAA shutdown and temporarily extend full funding for agency construction and other programs was possible before lawmakers adjourn.

There was no indication from House and Senate aides of any progress.

Congress failed last month to approve a temporary extension of FAA funding while Congress continued work on a permanent, multibillion-dollar spending blueprint.

The chief sticking point centers on a proposal by the Republican-led House, which has been resisted by the majority Democrats in the Senate, to cut certain airline subsidies for rural air service.

Republicans also want Congress to roll back a federal labor rule favored by Democrats that makes it easier for unions to organize at U.S. airlines.

(Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Eric Beech)

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