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Lawmakers near agreement on FAA bill

By Ted Barrett, CNN
updated 7:20 PM EST, Fri January 20, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Each side agrees to compromise on several labor issues over long-stalled bill
  • Harry Reid says he is confident that another FAA shutdown will be avoided
  • The current temporary FAA bill expires at the end of the month

Washington (CNN) -- Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill moved closer Friday to an agreement to clear a long-stalled Federal Aviation Administration bill.

They did so, according to aides in both parties, after each side compromised on several thorny labor issues that had held up negotiations over the bill that funds aviation programs and airport construction.

"I am pleased that we were able to resolve the major obstacles to an agreement in a manner that protects American workers, and clears the way for a long-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement. "While some issues remain, there is no reason we cannot resolve them in the coming days and avoid any risk of another FAA shutdown."

A partial shutdown last summer caused airport construction to halt temporarily and led to furloughs at the FAA.

As part of the agreement, Republicans dropped language they wanted that would have reversed a National Mediation Board ruling that said when airline workers are voting whether to unionize, non-votes can't be counted as "no" votes.

Democrats compromised by agreeing to raise the threshold for employees expressing interest in unionizing from 35% to 50% before an election can be held.

Lawmakers must still tackle remaining issues in the bill, such as funding for rural air services, which many Republicans have pushed to reduce.

The current temporary FAA bill expires at the end of the month and one more temporary extension will likely be needed while the rest of the bill is negotiated, a Democratic aide said.

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