And apparently, they're proud of it! The "They" I'm referring to are House and Senate Republicans in Washington, D.C., who did not shy away from admitting that the forced furlough of some 74,000 workers (those employed by the FAA directly, and construction workers contracted for airport construction projects) was simply a 'means to an end.' The 'end' that they are hoping for is the inclusion of an amendment to a recently offered FAA funding bill that would negate a Senate-passed amendment that would make union organizing only marginally easier for workers in the airline industry. As the rules stand now, when workers at a business votes on union organization, those workers who do not vote (for whatever reason-perhaps they're on vacation or ill or something more inane) have their votes automatically entered into the official tally as a 'no' vote. The Senate, in its version of the FAA funding bill, adopted an amendment that would only require a majority of those workers who actually vote to gain the opportunity for union organization in that workplace. Apparently, Delta Airlines, the only major U.S. air carrier not unionized, objected to Congress making it easier ... in any way, shape or form ... for its workers to organize and join a union. So, with seemingly endless hours of lobbying of Republican members of Congress (particularly the House) by Delta and its 'hired guns' (aka. lobbyists), the Republican chair of the House Transportation Committee inserted an amendment in the House version of the bill to strip the Senate amendment.
Now, when the two chambers of Congress are considering similar pieces of legislation, their individual efforts (once passed by each respective body) are then forwarded to a 'conference committee', wherein the differences between the two bills are, theorectically, ironed-out. Thus paving the way to final passage and the subsequent signature or veto of the President. In this instance, the conference process did not manage a 'compromise.' Of course, that may well be due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress have made it their mission to deny, avoid, or outright torpedo any attempts at any sort of compromise that might be made to look like Democrats, and the President in particular, were victorious. Republicans seem hell-bent on insuring that Democrats are 'losers', no matter the piece of legislation that moves through Congress. Unfortunately, while Democrats have taken a beating, no doubt, the American people are the ones who, in this latest instance and so many others, are bearing the ugly brunt of the stick that Congressional Republicans are wielding.
As a result of the hamstrung FAA funding bill, the agency, which as you might have guessed it, is in-charge of nearly every aspect of air travel in this country, was forced to furlough 4,000 FAA employees who serve in positions besides those which have to deal directly with air safety. Along with those FAA employees, roughly 70,000 construction workers, hired by the federal government for a whole host of airport construction projects all over the country, have been told to "stay home until further notice." So ... let me get this straight. The people who have been suggesting since Day One of President Obama's administration that Americans need jobs, is admittedly stonewalling the FAA funding bill, which, as already mentioned, is putting 74,000 Americans on a forced furlough. Now, I'm no member of Congress. But that doesn't sound like a job-creating ... or even job-sustaining ... proposition to me.
As if that little 'nugget' of sunshine wasn't enough to send millions of Americans to scratching their heads and asking, "WFT?!" Because this particular FAA funding stream was allowed to lapse, the airlines are no longer collected the "ticket tax" that basically funds the FAA. That little 'raincloud' is going to cost the federal government and American taxpayers $200 million a WEEK! Or ... if we assume that this issue will not be settled until Congress reconvenes after Labor Day, it will suck over $1.2 billion from the government coffers.
Rank hypocrisy is not new to Washington, D.C. It has been around, in some measure, since the founding of this nation. There have always been politicians who have been elected (by a deceived electorate one hopes), only to go to Washington and promote legislative policies that fail, both in concept and in practice, to improve the lives of the American people. And while instances of rank hypocrisy have occurred, they would usually trend toward more isolated issues that didn't effect entire segments of our society. No in this case. In this instance Republicans have made the conscious decision to champion legislative action (or inaction might be the better word to use here) that not only flies in the face of their jobs-centric position, but actively, willingly and knowingly harms tens of thousands of Americans and their families.
You know Republicans have "crossed the Rubicon" of common sense and fair play when a Republican member of the Obama administration, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, takes to the White House press podium and calls on Congress to return to Washington and pass this funding bill. If only Mr. LaHood's words would be enough.
Perhaps it is time for the President to consider calling for an emergency session of Congress? The Office of the President has that authority; to call members of Congress to Washington and require it to go into session. Granted, doing so would no doubt impose on the self-awarded "August Recess" (aka. vacation) that Congress has given itself. And I'm sure that more than a few members would be a little miffed. So what?! Then they should have done their jobs when they were in-town!