When the Senate decided to put the FAA long-term reauthorization on the floor for discussion this week after it finally passed out of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, it was hoped by many that this would be the time to give the agency some stability, but it was not to be.
Since Sept. 30, 2007, the FAA has been operating under temporary extensions and, once again, the agency will get only a three-month extension while both houses of Congress work out their differences. The present FAA extension act expires March 31.
The Senate, which has been delaying reauthorization of the agency, took up the long-term issue but quickly became mired down again with controversial amendments. That body also moved away from considering the FAA bill to work on other issues.
Congress breaks for its two-week recess Friday, March 19, and it became obvious that, even if the Senate succeeded in passing reauthorization this week, there would not be ample time for the Senate and House to work out their differences and pass a full reauthorization by the recess.
On Wednesday, March 17, the House extended FAA authorization and funding through July 3. It continues fuel taxes at the present rate, provides $3 billion in contract authority for the airport improvement program from Oct. 1, 2009, until July 3, 2010, and authorizes appropriations for FAA Operations, Facilities and Equipment, and Research, Engineering, and Development programs. The Senate is expected to also pass a three-month temporary extension before the end of the week.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.