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Fri, May 02, 2008

Senate To Vote Tuesday On Cloture For S.1300

Would End Debate On Amendments To FAA Funding Bill

Don't expect meaningful progress on the Senate's FAA funding bill until early next week. CNN reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled a May 6 procedural vote on the matter, effectively setting a deadline for lawmakers to stop quibbling over which amendments should be added to the bill.

As ANN reported Thursday, debate on S.1300 came to a screeching halt this 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 a boost to highway spending.

Reid's cloture vote adds impetus for lawmakers to resolve their differences... but there remains the possibility Republican lawmakers could block the cloture vote, unless an agreement is reached over what amendments could be considered for the bill.

"Republicans would like to continue debating this bill so that it can be improved, but the majority locked it up and have taken a my-way-or-the-highway approach," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.)

So far, not a single amendment has been added to the FAA reauthorization bill... as lawmakers failed to reach agreement over which amendments should be voted on.

The Senate FAA reauthorization plan had been stalled in committee since last September, until a compromise between Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and John Rockefeller (D-WV) -- chairmen of the Senate Finance and Commerce Committees, respectively -- broke the logjam, and permitted the bill to reach the Senate floor Monday. The House of Representatives approved its version of the funding bill over seven months ago.

Lawmakers have criticized Reid, saying he's only allowing amendments he favors to reach the floor. In addition to blocking Republican-backed amendments, Reid's procedural maneuvering -- called "filling the tree" -- also blocked an amendment favored by Baucus to restore earlier pension bill language for domestic airlines, forcing them to fully fund benefits.

"Our deal was undone, and Reid backstopped that by filling the tree," said one unnamed Senate Finance Committee staffer.

FMI: www.senate.gov, www.faa.gov

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