Senate Passes 5-Year FAA Reauthorization as Deadline Looms

Senate Passes 5-Year FAA Reauthorization as Deadline Looms
An American Airlines flight takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed on May 9 a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), sending the bill to the House one day before the deadline when the program is due to lapse.

The final tally was 88-4. While the bill initially passed the House, the Senate amended it, and therefore, the measure will go to the lower congressional chamber, where it is expected to pass overwhelmingly next week before going to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.

To give the House enough time to pass the measure, the Senate passed a stopgap one-week FAA extension bill that the House passed on May 8, which President Biden is expected to sign.

Were there to be no reauthorization, the FAA said it would have to furlough 3,600 employees.

The long-term FAA reauthorization would last until Sept. 30, 2028.

Ahead of the passage of the long-term extension, two senators complicated the process early in the morning on May 9, stating that they would not approve an extension because they feared it would prevent discussion of key amendments.

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) created an amendment to strip from the FAA bill a provision that would add five round-trip flights to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington. Congress has control of the airport, which mainly has domestic flights.

Both said the busy airport is overtaxed with traffic, noting that two planes almost collided on its runway on April 18 after a miscommunication between air traffic controllers and the pilots.

Mr. Kaine and Mr. Warner said they worry that approving the extension will give the Senate a chance to run out the clock without considering the various amendments proposed, including theirs.

“Last month’s near miss at DCA is a flashing red warning light that this airport is overburdened and that cramming more flights onto the busiest runway in America is a terrible idea,” Mr. Kaine and Mr. Warner wrote in a statement on May 9.

“We can’t, in good conscience, greenlight that plan until we have a commitment that there will be an opportunity to put our amendment to a vote and to persuade our colleagues to prioritize the safety of millions of passengers over a few senators’ desire for a direct flight home.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the top GOP negotiator for the FAA bill, supported adding flights to Reagan National because of the decades-old rule that limits outgoing flights from the airport to a 1,250-mile radius around Washington.

For example, residents of San Antonio, Texas, are required to go through Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, which Mr. Cruz noted while speaking with The Epoch Times.

The other option is to fly into Dulles International Airport in Virginia, but it is farther from the nation’s capital.

The senator also blamed United Airlines for lobbying against adding flights to Reagan National to retain a “monopoly” at Dulles International.

When asked for comment, United Airlines referred questions to the Coalition to Protect America’s Regional Airports.

Mr. Schumer reiterated the dangers of failing to pass the bill before the deadline for FAA programs runs out.

“If we let funding for the FAA lapse, that could be disastrous for the safety of our skies and the efficiency of our airports.

“Thousands of employees might be furloughed, air traffic controllers would be forced to work longer and extra hours, [and] funding for infrastructure projects would be halted,” he said during a floor speech on May 9.

“So, I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue working together so we can fund the FAA and avoid missing tomorrow’s deadline.”

From The Epoch Times

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