Shuster’s Air Traffic Bill Left Off House Vote Schedule

By Shaun Courtney

The House bill to reauthorize the FAA and spin off air traffic control still isn’t scheduled for a vote, increasing the likelihood that an extension of agency authority will be needed when lawmakers return from their summer recess.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is proposing to extract air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration as part of his bill (H.R. 2997) to reauthorize the agency, which will see its current authority expire Sept. 30. The bill was approved by the committee, though the spinoff plan is controversial.

The House’s last day before the August recess is July 28, putting Shuster in a time crunch to build support or face an FAA extension when the House returns in September.

The House Rules Committee calendar listed the bill July 12 as possible for floor consideration. However, the bill was left off of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) weekly schedule, first for the week of July 17 and again for the week of July 24.

McCarthy’s schedule leaves an opening for Shuster’s bill to come to the floor before recess. “Additional Legislative Items are Possible,” it says.

Justin Harclerode, spokesman for the transportation committee majority, told Bloomberg BNA in a statement July 24: “Taking up the bill before August is certainly possible, and as the House schedule comes into clarity, the Committee will continue to build on the growing momentum and work with members to answer their questions about the reforms in the 21st Century AIRR Act.”

The ‘E’ Word

Shuster has repeatedly told reporters since introducing his legislation that he isn’t working under the assumption he would have to extend the FAA’s authority in the short term to work through points of contention.

Shuster told Bloomberg BNA just before the Fourth of July break: “I’m not looking at anything else but Sept. 30.”

Harclerode echoed that view, saying, “Our ultimate focus remains the September 30 deadline for completing a bill.”

Others say a reauthorization is probably on the horizon.

“With the various controversies surrounding what is in (and what is not in) pending House and Senate FAA reauthorization bills and with the clock quickly winding down, we appear to be headed for yet another extension,” the American Association of Airport Executives wrote in a press release July 21.

The group hasn’t taken a position on Shuster’s proposal to give air traffic control functions to a non-profit, multi-stakeholder entity that would be created under the bill.

Shuster’s 2016 bill to spin off air traffic control was approved in committee but didn’t advance to the floor.

The current authorization is the result of a 14-month extension passed last July. Shuster’s bill proposes a six-year authorization; an accompanying Senate bill (S. 1405) calls for a four-year authorization.

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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