The U.S. House and Senate return today after the August recess with no apparent consensus on FAA reauthorization and just 12 legislative working days left before the current FAA authorization is set to expire. House leaders had hoped to bring up the FAA reauthorization bill to a vote by late July, but controversy surrounding the independent air traffic control measure pushed a vote at least until this month.
Both sides of the ATC issue spent the August recess lobbying to cement support for their stances. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee now "fully expect[s]" to bring the bill to the floor next week, a spokesman said. This signals the possibility that proponents of ATC reform have been able to sway a number of votes in recent weeks. But even with a House vote, a chief proponent—House General Aviation Caucus co-chair Sam Graves (R-Missouri)—told Washington insider publication Politico that a short-term extension of the FAA’s authorization is almost a certainty.
The ATC measure must further win Senate support, which has been a more difficult prospect. The Senate bill does not include the controversial ATC measure, but the Senate version of FAA reauthorizaiton had also been hung up.
Both chambers also must address Fiscal Year 2018 government-wide funding, including for the Department of Transportation. The House Rules Committee has a scheduled hearing today to consider a partial or semi-omnibus bill that will pull together eight appropriations bills, including funding for DOT and the FAA. That measure could reach the House floor shortly.
The House and Senate bills both include increased funding for the FAA and a number of provisions of interest to the business and general aviation community. The Senate bill would outright ban the creation of an independent ATC organization.