Hopes Dim For Passage This Term
What's the opposite of
progress? If you answered "Congress," you're not far off the
mark... as a Tuesday vote in the US Senate has all-but-guaranteed
we won't see passage of an FAA reauthorization bill this year.
CNN reports senators voted 49-42 to limit debate on adding a
number of extra amendments to the bill... many of which have
nothing to do with aviation. That total fell short of the 60 votes
necessary to end the political wrangling, and to send the bill onto
the Senate floor as-is.
Republican lawmakers voted nearly unanimously against ending
debate, saying several amendments proposed by Democrats --
including money for New York rail expansion, and adding money to
the highway trust fund -- had no place on a bill to modernize air
travel, and should be voted off the funding measure.
Senate aides expressed some hope the bill, S.1300, would reach a
vote, saying a number of senators will continue work towards an
agreement... but it's unlikely such a bill would come to fruition
before current funding for the FAA expires June 30, leading some
lawmakers to already propose yet another short-term extension so
the agency will continue to function.
There is also talk the Senate could vote to extend agency
funding at current levels for 15 months, until September 2009,
unless the current stalemate is broken.
As ANN reported, debate on
S.1300 came to a screeching halt last week, after lawmakers clashed
over an amendment setting stricter rules for airline contributions
to their employee pension funds. When debate to end that loophole
was dropped, attention turned to a slew of unrelated riders
lawmakers attempted to attach to the bill, including the call to
boost highway spending.
The House of Representatives passed its own version of the FAA
reauthorization bill, H.R. 2881, last September... but the Senate
plan had been stalled in committee until a compromise between
Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and John Rockefeller (D-WV, shown at
right) -- chairmen of the Senate Finance and Commerce Committees,
respectively -- broke the logjam, and permitted the bill to reach
the Senate floor April 28.
dismay the bill is once again stalled, saying the money is needed
to modernize the nation's air traffic control system ahead of
projected growth in passenger travel by 2025. "A billion passengers
are going to be using it, and they're going to be using it on a
Polaroid-camera technology system," he said.
Phil Boyer, president of the 415,000-member Aircraft Owners and
Pilots Association, said he was "disappointed" to see the Senate
stall once again on the compromise bill... but added a note of
"Even though Tuesday’s vote to limit debate on the measure
failed, there are still two months left before the current
temporary funding measure expires," Boyer said. "Our hope is that
the Senate will be able to reach agreement on this crucial
legislation during that time and pass a bill that funds the FAA,
including the Airport Improvement Program and air traffic control
modernization, and does so using the current tax-based funding
One unnamed Senate Democrat aide said if Republicans won't allow
the current bill through the process... Democrats will probably use
expected gains in the upcoming elections to push through an FAA
funding plan those Republican lawmakers will like even less.