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Boxer: Half-Finished SoCal Airport Tower ‘Sad Symbol’ Of DC Gridlock

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A photo of the Palm Springs tower as of July 25, 2011 when the FAA furloughs took effect. (credit: CBS/KPSP/Swinerton Builders)

A photo of the Palm Springs tower as of July 25, 2011 when the FAA furloughs took effect. (credit: CBS/KPSP/Swinerton Builders)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A California lawmaker on Wednesday lamented the site of a partially-constructed airport tower as a “sad symbol of bipartisan brinksmanship” after the project was temporarily idled because of congressional discord.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said lawmakers should work towards a long-term budget fix that preserves funding for Federal Aviation Administration for projects such as the tower under construction at Palm Springs International Airport.

“This tower became a very sad symbol to me of bipartisan brinkmanship,” Boxer said during a news briefing at the airport. “It’s a very important symbol of what happens when things are done right, and what happens when they’re done wrong.”

The Rancho Mirage resident toured the partially finished structure, along with members of the Palm Springs City Council, airport officials and the contractor.

Tower construction was stopped last month when legislative gridlock stalled $2.5 billion in appropriations for FAA operations.

Around 4,000 workers nationwide were furloughed at airport projects in Las Vegas, Oakland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Mississippi and New York, according to the FAA.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., held up the budget authorization in a show of opposition to a House of Representatives-approved provision that would have stopped taxpayer subsidies to support operations at 13 small airports, including one in Reid’s home state.

On Friday, a temporary FAA funding agreement was reached that tabled the proposal. However, the agreement expires on Sept. 16.

Boxer wants House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to appoint an FAA conference committee so that conflicts can be ironed out to avoid future impasses.

The senator and other Senate Democrats sent a letter to Boehner and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., accusing them of dragging their feet on the issue.

But Mica pointed the finger at Democrats for causing the FAA shutdown.

“The American people have witnessed firsthand during this minor difference of opinion — blown up into a crisis by Senate Democrats — how truly difficult it is to bring about even modest reforms and cut wasteful programs in Washington, like $3,720 individual airline ticket subsidies,” Mica said Friday.

Another major stumbling block in negotiations is an effort by House Republicans to reverse a new labor rule that makes it easier for transportation employees to unionize.

Democrats support the rule, with President Barack Obama threatening to veto any legislation that would undo it.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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