February 15, 2011
(Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Tuesday rejected a proposal to cut the budget for aviation programs, in a test vote on Republican pledges to curb federal spending.
The Democratic-led Senate voted 51 to 47 along party lines to set aside an amendment offered by Rand Paul of Kentucky that sought to roll back the Federal Aviation Administration budget to 2008 levels, or by about $3 billion over the 2012 proposal.
Republicans, especially those in the House of Representatives, are looking for opportunities to fulfill a November 2010 voter mandate for spending cuts and reduced budget deficits.
The two-year FAA bill funds air traffic control operations and lays the groundwork for modernizing that system.
The spending blueprint presents an early opportunity for so-called “budget hawks” to score initial gains. Paul’s amendment came the day after President Barack Obama submitted a $3.7 trillion budget to Congress.
Republicans blasted Obama’s plan for 2012 spending, demanding deeper cuts now.
Another amendment to the FAA bill offered by Senator John McCain would eliminate a $170 million government subsidy given to airlines annually to ensure passenger service to rural communities.
McCain has said his plan would test whether Republicans are serious about spending cuts and that conservatives have labeled it an early “key vote” of their fiscal agenda.
A similar bill in the House proposed last week would also cut aviation spending to 2008 levels.
(Reporting by John Crawley, editing by Chris Wilson)