While everyone is focused on the debt ceiling debate, there is plenty of housekeeping type, business as usual activity which congress needs to wrap up. One of the more pesky items remaining in a holding pattern is the re-authorization of the FAA. This has been dragging on for years now, and there’s no sign of a final resolution on the horizon.
Even though the U.S. House of Representatives cancelled its scheduled recess this week, it is evident that the long-stalled FAA reauthorization bill will not be completed by the expiration of the 20th short-term extension on July 22. On July 15, House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and House Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) introduced H.R. 2553, a record-busting 21st extension that would run until Sept. 16, 2011. This is not good news for the industry as a whole, but certainly not for general aviation airports, say officials with the General Aviation Airport Coalition (GAAC).
On May 25, however, the coalition initiated an advocacy campaign urging House and Senate leaders to join forces and deliver a complete reauthorization bill to provide the greatest user benefits possible to general aviation airports.
When H.R. 2553 was sent over, it seems that Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) tacked on a change to the previous Senate proposal which will reduce the federal subsidy provided to airports. This left at least one senator feeling a bit flustered.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), however, isn’t pleased with the changes, saying, “The House has demonstrated that it is not serious about getting a comprehensive bill done. The Senate will not consider passing an FAA extension with policy riders that hurt small communities across the country. By sending over a bill that can’t pass the Senate, we risk shutting down our nation’s aviation system.”
So what happens if this process isn’t completed? Does it mean that the nation’s entire network of airports have to shut down? The article mentions that an FAA spokesperson was asked about that and all she had to say was, “We’re not going to speculate.”
That’s certainly not much of an answer. I’m not even sure if the House is looking to trim the FAA budget as part of wider cost cutting measures, or if perhaps this ties into the ongoing battle over regulatory agency interference, such as we’re witnessing with the NLRB debacle. Either way, crippling air travel certainly isn’t an option so they’d better figure out something pretty quickly.