WASHINGTON -- At the heart of the bitter dispute over funding the Federal Aviation Administration is a brawl between Republicans and Democrats over the rights of labor unions, one of several that have arisen for the Obama administration.

Congress struck a deal that gave the FAA temporary operating authority last week just as lawmakers began their August vacation. For nearly two weeks prior, the FAA was mostly shut down, with 4,000 workers furloughed and tens of thousands of construction-related jobs idled. The dispute, waiting for Congress when it returns to consider long-term FAA spending, could lead to another standoff.

House Republicans are intent on overturning a new rule passed by a little-known agency last year that made it easier for airline and railroad workers to unionize. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have made clear they want to keep the new rule, one of the few big victories for organized labor under the Obama administration.

"What is important here, and it is not some itty-bitty little thing, is that we have labor law regulators out of control," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told the Senate last week.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pledged that Democrats "will not allow a handful of Republicans to hijack the debate over a long-term FAA extension to serve an anti-worker agenda." -- AP

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