An influential member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Tuesday that the Republican-led House should take the lead on drafting a new funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration. The $63 billion bill that was passed for the agency in 2012 is currently set to expire in September 2015. Citing the House’s recent work on a bipartisan funding measure for U.S. ports and waterways, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said Wednesday that the GOP-led chamber was up to the job of crafting a new aviation spending package.
“We’ve got a big job ahead of us when it comes to [FAA] reauthorization,” Graves said at an event that was sponsored by The Hill and Airlines for America.
“We have a lot of moving parts out there that we have to put together,” he continued. “The last thing we want is another reauthorization like we had last time. Twenty-one extensions, we just keep going through this process; we can’t come to an agreement; we can’t move forward.”
Graves said it remains to be seen if the Democratic-controlled Senate would go along with the type of reforms that Republicans in the House are envisioning for the FAA’s next funding measure.
“Can we work with the Senate? That’s a different animal, but again, it comes down to relationships,” he said. “If the house takes the lead in this process, I think we will do very well.”
Graves, who is also the chairman of the House Small Business Committee, said lawmakers in the lower chamber have already begun working behind the scenes on the next FAA bill, despite the fact that they have other items remaining on their agenda like highway and Amtrak funding.
“We’re actually already in the process of putting some framework together, but we’re going to hit the group running when we get back in January,” he said.
Graves said lawmakers would have to wait for the results of the November election to fully get to work on large funding bills like the FAA’s.
“What the completion of the Congress looks like when we get back has yet to be determined, and the Senate is obviously the biggest factor,” he said. “The House is pretty much going to stay stagnant. It’s going to remain the same, barring anything between now and November, which in politics is an eternity, but the Senate is 50-50.”
The FAA’s last funding measure was approved in 2012 after more than 20 temporary extensions of a measure that was scheduled to have expired in 2009. The standoff over the FAA’s funding produced a two-week partial shutdown of the agency in 2011.
Graves said there was “a lot at stake” for lawmakers to avoid a repeat of that occurrence with issues like the FAA’s plans to convert the national airplane navigation system from World War II-era radar technology to a satellite-based system that is known as NextGen.
The FAA is relying on funding from its future appropriations measure to help fund the implementation of the new system, which transportation department officials have said will drastically improve air traffic management in the U.S.