Once again bumping up against a deadline, Congress yesterday agreed to a stopgap measure that funds the government at current levels through December 9. The House late yesterday approved the measure by a vote of 342-85 after it passed the Senate earlier in the day by a 72-26 vote. The bill was passed just two days before government funding was set to expire. Partisan bickering over Zika funding and water relief aid for Flint, Michigan, stalled the bill in recent weeks, raising the prospect of a potential shutdown.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association president Paul Rinaldi and executive v-p Trish Gilbert last week jointly urged Congress to work through its issues to pass a funding bill and ensure stable funding for the National Airspace System (NAS). “For the last three years, we’ve been asking Congress to establish a stable, predictable funding mechanism to fund the NAS,” they said in a joint statement, noting once again Congress was waiting until the last minute. “The same situation could happen again later this year and before the debt ceiling deadline next March.”
Airlines for America CEO Nick Calio similarly this month raised the specter of a government shutdown as another reason for reform of the nation’s air traffic control system. “There is the exhausting potential for it to happen again,” he had said. "This cycle of dysfunction in funding perfectly underscores the critical flaws in the current system and why A4A is advocating for air traffic control modernization.”
The short-term extension was passed without a measure to enable the Export-Import Bank to consider loans greater than $10 million. Aviation groups had joined in preparing a broad-based industry letter urging such consideration. The White House reacted, saying it was “disappointed that—despite overwhelming bipartisan, bicameral support—the Congress failed to ensure that the Export-Import Bank is able to fully assist American businesses and workers.”
The measure pushes consideration of a full fiscal 2017 funding bill until after the November elections. The FAA is set for a small increase in its budget under a full funding bill. The House and Senate versions of full fiscal 2017 funding bills also include various measures to address certification reform and inspector staffing, as well as continuation of the mandate for the agency to honor requests to block access to registration information on real-time flight-tracking programs.