With the latest FAA reauthorization extension set to expire March 31, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee passed a bill on March 16 that would extend aviation programs and excise taxes through May 31. That two-month extension would give lawmakers time to complete action on a multi-year FAA reauthorization bill.
The full T&I Committee approved a four-year FAA reauthorization in February, but the full House has yet to vote on the measure. In the upper chamber, the entire Senate passed its two-year FAA reauthorization bill, also in February.
“The committee has finished its work on the long-term FAA reauthorization, and the other House committees with jurisdiction are considering their portions of the bill this week,” said committee chairman John Mica (R-Fla.). Since the earliest the House can take up that bill is the final week of this month [March], the extension is necessary to ensure aviation programs do not lapse.”
Aviation subcommittee chairman Tom Petri (R-Wis.) agreed with Mica about the latest extension, which would be the 18th since 2007 when the last multi-year reauthorization ended.
“This extension will keep our aviation programs funded through the end of May, and I have renewed confidence that, with the Senate having already passed its bill and our reauthorization headed to the floor in the next couple of weeks, this should be our final extension,” he said. “I know the Senate is as eager as we are in the House to get a long-term reauthorization in place.”
But the wrangling over the FAA bill might not be over just yet. Eric Byer, National Air Transportation Association v-p of government and industry affairs, blogged that there will not be sufficient time for the Senate and House to iron out differences between the bills, adding that some big disagreements remain unresolved.
“The problem is, the more time that passes, the more ‘politically sensitive’ issues that arise,” he wrote. “While slots at DCA have always been a big issue within the FAA reauthorization bill, the topic did not rear its ugly head until after months and months of bill extensions and delays.”
Similarly, the FedEx labor provision was a big obstacle to the bill in the last go-around last year, but is now no longer an issue because the chief backer was defeated in November.
“There just always seems to be an issue that can hold this bill up, and as time passes, other issues percolate to the top of controversy,” the industry veteran noted, adding that this is by far the most progress in years on FAA reauthorization. “In saying this, I am not questioning leaders in Congress,” Byer said. “But as time passes and yet another extension comes to fruition, the opportunity to take a long-term FAA reauthorization bill and muddy it with potential issues grows greater.” –P.L.