U.S. aviation shutdown likely through August: LaHood

WASHINGTON Wed Aug 3, 2011 10:43am EDT

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood speaks during the daily media briefing at the White House in Washington July 28, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood speaks during the daily media briefing at the White House in Washington July 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Only congressional action can end a partial shutdown of U.S. federal aviation programs that has suspended hundreds of airport construction projects, but that is unlikely with both chambers out until next month, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said on Wednesday.

LaHood dashed the long-shot possibility raised by one lawmaker that the fight over funding for the Federal Aviation Administration could be resolved later in the week under a congressional procedure that does not require lawmakers to cast votes in person. The step, called unanimous consent, would be rare with Congress out of town.

"(It's) not a possibility because we were told the Speaker of the House would not allow to happen and you'd have to have unanimous consent in both houses," LaHood said on C-SPAN.

The FAA has issued stop-work orders for 241 airport construction projects worth nearly $11 billion in the shutdown, which entered its 12th day on Wednesday.

Nearly 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed and the Obama administration has said the suspension threatens 70,000 jobs related to construction.

Disagreement over proposed cuts to rural air service and a simmering argument over a labor issue prevented the Senate from acting on Tuesday on a temporary FAA funding extension before lawmakers left for their August recess.

LaHood said only an act of Congress would end the shutdown and he would spend August working to persuade lawmakers to pass an extension immediately when they return in early September.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Doug Palmer and John Crawley; Editing by Doina Chiacu)