Sen. Tom Coburn blocked attempts to pass legislation extending highway and aviation spending on Wednesday, raising new fears the Federal Aviation Administration could shut down again and that the partisan fires that hit Washington over the summer were reigniting.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., warned the delay for debate could delay the Senate’s bill past the FAA’s extension on Friday. The partial FAA shutdown this summer caused 4,000 federal employee furloughs and halted roughly $2.5 billion in airport improvement work.
The House on Tuesday unanimously approved a parallel bill that will extend surface transportation programs until March 31, 2012, and Federal Aviation Administration authorization until Jan. 31.
Several media sources reported Coburn, R-Okla., wants to offer an amendment to block transportation funding for “enhancements” such as bike paths, museums and Rails to Trails purchases by the Department of Transportation.
Without identifying Coburn by name, Reid suggested the Oklahoma senator was behaving like a dictator.
“It’s unfortunate that’s the position we’re in,” Reid said. “One senator is holding this up, and if this continues, we will have about 80,000 people out of work by Saturday.”
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