‘Hard to Envision’ Senate Democrats Blocking FAA Extension, Thune Says

By Shaun Courtney

It’s “hard to envision” that Senate Democrats would vote against an FAA extension bill because of a flood insurance provision, the chairman of the Senate’s transportation panel said Sept. 27.

House Democrats voted Sept. 25 to defeat a six-month extension (H.R. 3823) for the Federal Aviation Administration’s program authority because of a provision in the bill to expand the private flood insurance market. But Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said he was doubtful that Senate Democrats would follow suit.

“It’s really hard to envision them blocking a bill that’s got provisions attached to it that are designed to help with response to these natural disasters. Will they? I don’t know,” he told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 27.

The FAA’s current authority lapses Sept. 30.

Thune wants to see the Senate pass the House bill under unanimous consent, but committee ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) made that sound unlikely.

“That will not get passed here,” Nelson said Sept. 26 in response to Bloomberg BNA’s inquiry about the House’s flood insurance provision.

Outside of unanimous consent, the bill, which also contains tax relief provisions for hurricane victims, would need 60 votes in the Senate.

“I don’t think there really are substantive issues with what [the House is] doing over there among the members of our committee, or, for that matter, many of the members of the Democrats in the Senate,” Thune said.

Senate Objections?

But Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), ranking member on the Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over flood insurance proposals, said the House provision was unacceptable.

“We’re not going to do it,” Brown said. “This would undermine all of our flood insurance efforts. It will cause all kinds of cherry-picking by private insurance.”

Though Nelson took a firm stand on the flood insurance provision of the House bill, several of his fellow committee members were either unaware of the issue or did not have an opinion about it.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) had not been briefed on the flood insurance provision in the House bill. He told Bloomberg BNA that he could see there being issues with the House bill that the Senate might try to modify.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) deferred to the leadership on issues with both the House extension bill and the full FAA reauthorization bill.

Brown would not say how many votes he thought Democrats have against the proposal. Any lack of awareness was due to the way the House “loaded up” the FAA bill with other issues, he said.

“Democrats are pretty upset as a whole,” he said.

Current Status

The bill, which was reported out of the House Rules Committee Sept. 26, retained the flood insurance and hurricane aid provisions Democrats had objected to.

It was being debated Sept. 27 in the House under a closed rule banning amendments, allowing the House to potentially clear its extension bill with a simple majority, leaving it up to Senate Democrats.

“I just can’t imagine at this point some of these political demands would derail something this important,” Thune said.

The House will vote on their bill the morning of Sept. 28, a Republican leadership aide said.

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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