Sen. Tom Coburn (Senate.gov)
extremist and intransigent
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is: The short-term FAA and surface transportation bill he's holding up passed the House of Representatives. The John Boehner-led House of Representatives. But the bill is not ideologically pure enough for Coburn, and he's holding it up so that it can't be passed by the Friday night deadline at which the FAA once again shuts down.
Coburn is pointing to a part of the surface transportation bill that he characterizes as wasteful beautification projects:
Coburn read some of the enhancement projects that had been funded with hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal fuel tax money. Among those cited were a museum in Pennsylvania, a Chinatown gateway in California and a squirrel sanctuary in Tennessee. He said states could choose to fund such projects but shouldn't be forced to do so in order to receive their federal road funding.
Let's be clear: The federal bill does not say "you must build a squirrel sanctuary or Chinatown gateway." It offers a number of possible uses for what is after all a very small percentage of the overall bill. The possibilities include bike lanes and bike paths, both of which are important safety enhancements, diversify the travel options commuters and local residents have, encourage clean energy travel and keep bikers from being injured by cars. If states build squirrel sanctuaries—something for which there may be legitimate reasons, though you'd have to ask someone (not me) who doesn't hate squirrels to guess what they might be—that's their choice.
But that's the ground Coburn has chosen to stand on to justify his insistence on shutting down the FAA and putting 4,000 FAA employees and tens of thousands of constructions workers out of a paycheck for however long it takes to get him over his temper tantrum. Politico reports that other Senate Republicans are "increasingly worried" and "pressuring him to relent." But apparently they're not willing to pressure him hard enough to actually make anything happen, and so the FAA is headed for another shutdown.