Yet another Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) extension passed the House of Representatives yesterday, the 21st time the agency has been reauthorized by a short-term measure after its authorization expired in 2007. We have warned in the past that the FAA’s wasteful and inefficient programs make it an ideal place to look for potential taxpayer savings. And today, Republican members of the House will endeavor to do just that, scrutinizing legislation that has gotten a free pass for four years by reforming the Essential Air Service (EAS).
The EAS provides subsidies that make air travel to remote, formerly unprofitable, locations available – in effect, underwriting flights home for Members of Congress who don’t reside close to a big city airport. Since 2001, EAS expenditures have increased by 300 percent, amounting to over $200 million in FY 2010 for the program. Each flight can cost taxpayers up to $3,720 per passenger. The willingness to cap, and ultimately phase out, this wasteful subsidy shows that House Republicans are serious about reforming wasteful spending programs.
It is rumored the Senate will balk at approving the extension because of these changes, this would result in the first time a short-term authorization has failed to pass, resulting in a shutdown of the FAA. It is perhaps hardly surprising Senators would be willing to shut down a government agency to preserve taxpayer funding for their luxurious travel, but it is extremely offensive that such a defiance of duty would even be considered in light of the contentious debt limit debate. It is noteworthy that one of the airports that would be affected by the new rules is in Nevada, home to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. After refusing to lead the Senate to do its basic responsibility and produce a budget for over 800 days, taxpayers are left wondering – whose interests does the Senate majority have at heart?