FAA Extension Bill With Hurricane Tax Relief Voted Down in House

By Shaun Courtney

A bill that would extend the Federal Aviation Administration’s authority for six months and include tax relief for hurricane victims fell short Sept. 25, in a 245-171 vote, of the threshold needed to pass the House under an expedited procedure.

The FAA extension bill (H.R. 3823) was set to come to the floor as a suspension bill, which requires support from two-thirds of lawmakers and is normally reserved for measures with broad bipartisan support. The bill would authorize the FAA through March 31, 2018.

Democrats voted in opposition as urged by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who criticized Republicans for tacking on “completely unrelated and inadequate items” to the FAA extension. Pelosi wants to see other issues prioritized such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the DREAM Act.

The unsuccessful Sept. 25 vote may force Republicans to bring it back to the floor later in the week under normal order, which requires only a simple majority for passage.

The Senate then would be under pressure to pass the bill before the current FAA authority expires Sept. 30.

FAA Drama

The six-month FAA extension was to have been a less controversial proposal advanced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), whose full reauthorization bill has not garnered sufficient votes to come to the floor. Democrats in the House and senators from both parties had pushed Shuster for a six-month extension when it became clear that neither body would approve full reauthorization before the agency’s authority expired Sept. 30.

Shuster’s full FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 2997) would extend the agency’s authority by six years while also spinning off air traffic control to a non-governmental entity.

Shuster said he was disappointed that the House had not passed a long-term bill, but said he thinks the bill (H.R. 2997) would help reduce the impact of congressional inaction on the nation’s air traffic control program.

A full reauthorization bill could come up in October, he said.

“We have to pass this extension today to provide six months’ worth of certainty and stability to the FAA, the aviation community, and the flying public,” he said.

Tax Relief, Flood Aid Added

The six-month bill includes several tax relief measures, such as lowering the threshold for deduction of personal casualty losses and allowing hurricane victims to withdraw funds from retirement accounts without a penalty. It also would provide for a tax credit of up to $6,000 for wages paid to an employee from the “central disaster area.”

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who sponsored the tax legislation, has previously said he prefers to pass targeted tax relief after disasters instead of making provisions permanent.

The FAA bill also includes a proposal to allow private flood insurance to satisfy federal requirements for loans made by mortgage lenders backed or regulated by the government.

Under existing law, National Flood Insurance Program policies are the only ones that most lenders will accept to satisfy the requirement that properties in flood-prone zones have flood insurance. The bill, long championed by insurers and other backers as a clarification rather than a rule change, would ensure private flood policies pass muster.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, worked with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Shuster to get the flood language into the FAA extension. The flood portion mirrors the Private Flood Insurance Market Development Act of 2017 (H.R. 1422), which the financial services committee approved 58-0 in June. Democratic senators on the banking committee have kept Senate versions of the same bill from advancing in the Senate over concerns of letting the private sector further into the flood insurance market.

With assistance from Brandon Ross and Colleen Murphy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shaun Courtney in Washington at scourtney@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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