Debra J. Saunders

On the one hand, the deal makes you wonder whether Washington can cut anything. On the other hand, the shutdown prevented the government from collecting more than $350 million in taxes on airline tickets. If the House Republicans' idea of economy is to forfeit $350 million to save $16 million, I don't think the public will have much of an appetite for more "savings" when Congress reconvenes.

The irony here is that House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., now faces increased pressure to go after rural-airport funding -- whether he wants to or not. And it may well be that saving taxpayers money was not his top priority.

According to Aviation Daily, Mica told the American Association of Airport Executives that his committee was using the rural-airport program as "a tool" to pressure Democrats to agree to an "anti-worker" labor law.

(After President Barack Obama named two former union officials to the three-member National Mediation Board, the labor panel changed the rules for airline and railroad union elections to allow a workforce to unionize by winning a majority vote. The decision overturned the 76-year practice of counting non-votes as "no" votes. House Republicans want to overturn the labor panel's ruling. Delta Air Lines has lobbied for the GOP provision.)

Senate Democrats oppose the GOP's attempt to block changes that would have made it easier to organize unions in airlines. Though the temporary FAA bill did not include the GOP labor provision, they contend that the maneuver is part of a long-term strategy to hold FAA funding hostage in order to accommodate one private airline.

"We're not doing this for Delta," Mica spokesman Justin Harclerode told me. "We want the NMB issue to be resolved in negotiations," just as Mica wants to negotiate "reform" of rural-airport funding.

"We're not really trotting out there with press conferences," he added. That is probably a good thing. Because sometimes press conferences backfire.

Debra J. Saunders

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