By way of background, the FAA (which controls safety at all US airports, among other things) has been defunded for several weeks due to Republican insistence on inserting anti-union provisions into the agency’s contracts, as well as on stripping funding for a program that subsidizes small flights to rural areas. I heard on the radio last night that this program costs a whopping $200 million annually.

The impasse has resulted in zero safety inspections of airports over the past couple of weeks (with the exception of some cases where committed inspectors have remained on the job with no compensation). It has also removed tax revenue, while airlines have kept fares unchanged and pocketed the difference, and while thousands of FAA employees have been temporarily laid off.

But never fear – the Senate is on the case:

The issue here is that the Republican-led House, which previously passed an FAA funding bill, is about to go on break again, and thus won’t respond to counter-offers from the Democratic Senate. Now, Fox News reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is signaling a willingness to accept the House version of the reauthorization, which includes the elimination of millions in subsidies for rural airline services.

“Sometimes you have to be reasonable, as we learned with this big deal we’ve just done,” said Reid. “Sometimes you just have to step back and do what’s best for the country and not be bound by your personal issues, and I’m willing to give that up, and I hope the other side will do the same.”

It’s bad enough to signal that you’re weak in negotiations and then issue the “hope they’ll be reasonable” statement to your opponent, but to issue it after you’ve obviated the need for them to bother listening is an entirely new level of commitment to the kabuki.

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