The looming debate over the new U.S. Supreme Court nominee, combined with other pressing priorities and the upcoming elections, continues to dampen hopes that a comprehensive multi-year FAA reauthorization bill will find time on the Senate floor in the next few months. While it is still early for talks of another extension of FAA’s authorization, which is set to expire at the end of September, Washington lobbyists have been concerned about an apparent lack of momentum with the bill.
NATA warned members last week that the Supreme Court nomination could “stall progress” for the FAA bill. Senate Commerce Committee chairman John Thune (R-South Dakota) had expressed some optimism about its passage before the September 30 deadline, the association noted, but “a backlog of judicial nominations, numerous appropriations bills, and various other pieces of legislation, like water resources and immigration, are vying for floor time, pushing any hope of finding time for an FAA bill farther away from reality.”
A number of potential roadblocks lay ahead, including election-year politics and the possibility that even if the bill were to reach the floor, it would get weighed down by numerous non-germane amendments that satisfy various campaign promises or other priorities. Senate leaders are believed to have quietly asked about the potential for such amendments and a number are anticipated.
Other associations, including GAMA and the Aerospace Industries Association, last month appealed to Senate lawmakers to move on the bill quickly. If Congress fails to act on the long-term bill before the end of the year, the reauthorization process must begin again next year with new bills drafted.