Transportation Committees Considering Lengthy FAA Patch

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By Stephanie Beasley

June 16 — House lawmakers are still working to move a six-year FAA reauthorization (H.R. 4441) to the floor, but it's likely Congress will need to pass a short-term extension before the agency's spending authority expires on July 15, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) told Bloomberg BNA.

“There will probably be some kind of extension, but I want it to be longer,” Shuster said, though he declined to provide further details about his preferred duration for a Federal Aviation Administration patch.

A longer extension could provide Shuster with more time to build support for his committee-approved proposal to remove air traffic control (ATC) from the FAA—an idea that so far has not been supported by appropriators or tax writers. Shuster was swift to highlight the merits of the plan during a recent Aviation Subcommittee hearing at which the Transportation Department's watchdog office noted the FAA was ineffectively implementing new hiring policies for controllers (See previous story, 06/16/16).

Thune Resigning to Patch Talk

Senators have urged the House to take up an 18-month, Senate-passed reauthorization bill (H.R. 636), which does not include an ATC spinoff plan. Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said the House still has enough time to mark up the Senate bill and take it to the floor but conceded that a short extension seemed probable.

He told reporters that he would support passing an FAA extension that would last through the rest of 2016. That would eliminate an opportunity for lawmakers to engage in “shenanigans” during the lame duck period, such as trying to use the extension as vehicle for contentious tax measures, Thune said.

He also said the patch should include some of the policy provisions included in the Senate bill.

“I would hope that if it is a short-term extension that at least they would be agreeable to carrying some stuff on there that we think make sense from a policy standpoint, long-term,” he said.

Among other things, the Senate FAA bill would direct the FAA to complete regulations allowing drone delivery services within two years and calls for the Transportation Security Administration to establish security checkpoints at small airports. The legislation also includes a number of proposed airline service changes, such as forcing airlines to disclose ancillary fees in advertised ticket prices and to seat families together no matter when individual members booked their flight.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Beasley in Washington sbeasley@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com