More to FAA shutdown than air service subsidies

By JOAN LOWY | August 4, 2011 | 3:15 AM EDT

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., left, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, to talk about the need to overcome the partisan standoff over a bill to end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — On the surface, the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration is about whether to cut $16 million in air service subsidies.

Underneath are layers upon layers of political gamesmanship that, at its heart, is about whether Democrats or Republicans get to call the shots in Congress.

Democratic leaders say Republicans, by manufacturing crisis after crisis, are trying to force them to accept painful policies that haven't been negotiated through normal legislative processes.

Republicans say they have to use the tools available to them because Democrats are unreasonable about cutting spending.

Already, 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed. More than 200 construction projects have been halted and an estimated 70,000 other private-sector workers affected.

The government is losing about $30 million a day in uncollected airline ticket taxes.