The US House of Representatives passed a four-year, $63.3 billion FAA reauthorization bill by a 248-169 vote Friday. With the Senate expected to take up and pass the bill Monday, more than four years of wrangling in Congress over funding FAA finally appears to be nearing an end.
The bill passed Friday by the House was rooted in a compromise over airline unionization voting rules reached last month between Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House speaker John Boehner (R-Mo.) (ATW Daily News, Jan. 24). Settling the contentious labor issue paved the way to gain enough support in Congress for reauthorizing an agency that officially lost its legal authorization Sept. 30, 2007 (ATW Daily News, Feb. 1).
Congress passed 23 temporary extensions to keep FAA fully operating for most of the last 52 months; the agency was partially shut down last summer when talks over one of the extensions collapsed (ATW Daily News, Aug. 5, 2011).
"We wrote a four-year [FAA] bill in 2003 that expired in 2007," House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said during the debate on the bill in the House. "These extensions cost the taxpayers millions of dollars … Enough is enough … This is about putting people to work and defining federal policy for [aviation]."
House aviation subcommittee top Democrat Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) said the bill passed Friday was far from perfect, but he emphasized the US "desperately" needs a multiyear FAA reauthorization and therefore he supported it.
The House-passed bill will fund FAA through Sept. 30, 2015. It allocates $13.4 billion for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), $38.3 billion for FAA operations, $10.9 billion for FAA facilities and equipment, and $672 million for research and development. It also outlines goals for implementing a satellite-based, NextGen ATC system, including creating a "chief NextGen officer" position at FAA.