Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Senate braces for fights over FAA reauthorization

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun2,2024

The Senate’s work to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will kick off in earnest Wednesday as members push to meet the May 10 deadline despite multiple looming battles, including over the push to add additional flights out of Reagan Washington National Airport.

FAA reauthorization has already been punted three times, but Congress is attempting to pass a full, five-year extension. It is likely to be one of the final must-pass bills — and legislative fights — before fall.

Lawmakers are hopeful they can wrap work up by next week’s deadline but are worried the process may get messy.

“It’s going to be bumpy. Turbulence,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) noted that Republican senators have nearly 20 amendments on which they want votes, a number of them unrelated to the FAA blueprint.

“It’s a pretty complex piece of legislation, a lot of moving parts, and I think there will be a good interest in some amendment process,” Thune said, adding it is an “open question” whether lawmakers can strike a deal to speed up passage.

A compromise bill unveiled Monday morning includes a codification of the Department of Transportation’s recent rule requiring refunds to travelers of some domestic and international flights, funding to hire more air traffic controllers and other provisions to improve runway safety and avoid near-collisions.

Chopped from the final package was raising the retirement age of pilots from 65 to 67 and language introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would have allowed lawmakers and judges facing threats to receive special security escorts through airports.

The must-pass bill was expected to be a prime opportunity to advance the ambitious bipartisan agenda Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has laid out.

But lawmakers indicate it would be a steep climb to attach any unrelated provisions to the bill.

Punchbowl News reported Monday that Schumer’s attempt to include a cannabis banking and stablecoin cryptocurrency reform package was shot down. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been a longtime opponent of SAFE banking legislation, which would give the cannabis industry access to the U.S. banking system.

Democrats have also been unable to win inclusion for a federal cost-sharing measure as part of the rebuild of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge after it collapsed last month. Top Republicans believe it is too early to pass a federal cost-share, as state officials have yet to unveil a recovery cost estimate.

“There’s a lot of nongermane stuff people want to put on this,” Thune said. “I just don’t know what the appetite is going to be for nongermane amendments, because once you go down that path, everyone wants their nongermane amendment too.”

The marquee fight in the coming days remains over whether five additional slots, or 10 round-trip flights, will be added to National Airport. Lawmakers from the Washington, D.C., area are crying foul over its inclusion in the negotiated package.

A quartet of Democratic senators — Ben Cardin (Md.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Mark Warner (Va.) — have argued for months that adding the slots will increase delays and decrease safety.

“It should go without saying that the safety of the traveling public should be a higher priority than the convenience of a few lawmakers who want direct flights home from their preferred airport,” the foursome said in a statement Monday. “We will continue to fight against this ridiculous and dangerous provision.”

National Airport is predominantly known as a short-haul airport. Most of its flights are kept under 1,250 miles, with only a couple of exceptions.

Lawmakers coming from longer distances have pushed to increase the number of those exceptions. The two other airports in the area, Dulles International Airport and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), are both better suited for long-distance flights but are further from D.C.

The four area senators are also worried adding the flights to National Airport could harm Dulles and BWI. Dulles is also a United Airlines hub, with the airline lobbying heavily against the additional National Airport slots.

It is expected that the Virginia- and Maryland-based members will receive an amendment vote on overturning the provision.

Kaine noted to reporters last week that two planes nearly collided at National Airport in April and that more flights raises the chances it could happen in the future.

“That near-miss at Reagan National two weeks back is a flashing-red warning light telling Congress: Do not do this,” Kaine told reporters late last week.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Senate braces for fights over FAA reauthorization”
  1. It seems like the Senate is in for a turbulent ride as they work on the FAA reauthorization. Let’s hope lawmakers can navigate the complexities and reach a smooth landing by the deadline.

  2. Do you think the inclusion of amendments unrelated to the FAA blueprint will affect the timely passage of the FAA reauthorization bill?

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