By Adrian Schofield
House lawmakers on Sept. 23 passed a six-month extension for FAA’s operating authority, which will sustain the agency’s programs into the next administration, but is well short of the 12-month extension called for by FAA head Robert Sturgell.
The bipartisan bill was introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership and was passed under suspension of rules, meaning no amendments could be attached. There is some urgency, as Congress is scheduled to recess Friday, and the FAA’s current short-term extension expires at the end of this month. The Senate was expected to pass the House version of the authorization bill by unanimous consent, either this evening or tomorrow morning.
Sturgell said last week that he was “making a pitch” for a 12-month extension, because a series of short-term extensions is hurting the agency. A full reauthorization bill has been fiercely debated in Congress this year, but controversies around policy elements in the bill caused a stalemate. The last FAA authorization expired Sept. 30, 2007.
A House T&I spokesman said the committee decided on six months instead of 12 because it wants to see some movement on a longer-term FAA reauthorization bill early in the next administration. The proposed bill will extend about 10 weeks into the new administration, giving the new Congress and White House time to consider a full reauthorization.
Instead of “keeping FAA on life support” with short-term extensions, the committee hopes “there will be some momentum to actually pass” a reauthorization bill, the spokesman said.
As well as extending authority for major aviation programs and taxes, the T&I bill recommends funding levels for the next six months, based on previous House and Senate marks for full-year funding. As always, actual funding levels will be decided by appropriations committees, which are expected to include FAA funding in a continuing resolution before Congress recesses.
The House authorization bill did not include major policy change clauses, because The T&I committee “decided to move a clean bill???stripped down to basic elements” so it can pass quickly, the committee spokesman said.
The Air Transport Association is pushing for legislative language that would essentially prevent the U.S. Transportation Dept. from introducing slot auctions. This amendment is being targeted at the continuing resolution rather than the authorization bill, so ATA is still hopeful it will be included.
Source: AVIATION WEEK