ProPublica has a good comprehensive piece on why parts of the FAA are shut down:
While lawmakers deadlock over long-term deficit reduction plans tied to the raising of the debt ceiling, one federal agency—the Federal Aviation Administration—has been in partial shutdown for nearly a week. Last week, Congress adjourned on Friday without reaching an agreement to extend the operating authority of the FAA, meaning the agency currently doesn’t have the authority to collect taxes on ticket sales, which it uses to pay some 4,000 employees’ salaries. The lost revenue amounts to about $200 million a week.
Initial reports suggested that minus the ticket taxes,consumers could reap some savings on air travel—and some may have at first. But some airlines soon changed their minds and raised their prices so tickets now cost about as much as if the tax were still there. In other words, money that would have gone to funding the FAA has gone straight into the pockets of some major U.S. airlines.
As a result, thousands of workers have been furloughed and may not get paid for days missed. And without FAA officials to oversee airport construction projects, the agency has issued stop-work orders to more than 150 projects across the country, putting thousands more private-sector construction workers temporarily out of work as well.
Several minor disputes have led to this impasse. The first is an industry-backed provision by House Republicans that would make it harder for aviation and railroad workers to unionize, essentially by counting workers who didn’t vote in a union election as having voted against the union. President Obama has threatened to veto any FAA bill containing this measure, but it’s included in the House version of the bill anyway. The second dispute is over a program—called the Essential Air Service Program—that provides subsidies to airlines that fly into tiny airports servicing more than 100 rural communities. House Republicans have tried to reduce those subsidies and phase them out in all states except for Alaska and Hawaii. The move has been opposed by some lawmakers whose states’ subsidies will be ended.
It’s worth noting that the Government Accountability Office has recommended that Congress reexamine whether funds for the Essential Air Service Program are being used efficiently. But it’s also unclear whether the lawmakers who’ve proposed cutting the program care much about it one way or the other. Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation committee, assured a conference of airport executives earlier this month that the House added the provision as a bargaining chip to win concessions on the unionization issue, reported Aviation Week. “It’s just a tool,” Mica told the executives.
Thousands of public sector workers on furlough, thousands of private-sector construction workers laid off, and this congressional campaign to destroy labor unions is costing us all 30 million dollars a day.