House passes FAA reauthorization despite Presidential Veto

Despite the threat of a veto by President Obama, the House of Representatives Friday, April 1, passed a reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration after 17 short-term extensions and it now goes to conference with a bill passed by the Senate in February. The measure was approved in the House by a vote of 223 to 196.

Senator John (Jay) Rockefeller (D-W Va.), chairman of the Committee of Commerce, Science, and Transportation, commented on the House passage, saying “we are ready to roll up our sleeves and get this bill done.”

A major sticking point in the two bills concerns unionization.  Under rules adopted last year by the National Mediation Board it would be easier for workers to unionize. Only votes for or against forming a union are now counted. Prior to NMB’s action last year, employees who did not vote counted as votes against forming a union. Before the NMB’s action last year it was much easier to unionize.

Neither bill contains user fees for general aviation.

Washington associations were quick to praise the House for its Friday action.  “I applaud Chairman Mica and Petri, as well as Ranking Members Rahall and Costello,” said James Coyne, president of National Aviation Transportation Association.  Ed Bolen, president and CEO of National Business Aviation Association, commended passage of the bill stating “the action strengthens our nation’s aviation system.”  He added praise for inclusion of language to preserve the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program.

Much still remains to be settled.  Both Houses of the Congress have passed another short term extension for the FAA in the event agreement on a longer term reauthorization fails in conference. Representative John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said he will accept nothing less than a long-term reauthorization.  But the Senate version is shorter and Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL), ranking member of the House Aviation Subcommittee, came out immediately after House passage of the measure condemning passage, saying it compromises safety and is a major step backwards.

If the two Houses agree on a bill that does not address the NMB question, it will remain to be seen if the President will carry through on his veto threat.

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