Congress is expected to pass yet another extension of the FAA Reauthorization bill, which expired Sept. 30.
A second extension expires Dec. 14 and Washington insiders say there is no way a bill will be ready by then. Some estimate it could be at least a year before the reauthorization is complete, because lawmakers cannot agree on user fees.
While the House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this year, two Senate committees are battling over the issue. The Senate Finance Committee approved a plan similar to the House bill, which does not include user fees, but rather increases fuel taxes. The proposal from the Commerce Committee, however, includes a $25 per flight segment user fee.
Adding to the indecision is the recent announcement by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) that he will retire by the end of the year. Lott and Sen. John Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) co-authored the Senate bill that includes user fees.
With the holiday recess looming and other pressing matters, senators have made little progress on the FAA reauthorization.
But it’s not over when the Senate finally passes a bill. The House and Senate bills will have to go to a conference committee, where a bipartisan group will hammer out a compromise bill.
Looming over all of this is a threat by President Bush to veto any bill that includes a requirement that the FAA reopen contract negotiations with the National Association of Air Traffic Controllers. That provision is included in the House bill.