U.S. Senate Approves FAA Funding Through Jan. 31

The U.S. Senate passed a bill Thursday, Sept. 15, to temporarily extend Federal Aviation Administration funding through Jan. 31, 2012. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Tuesday, Sept. 13, and it now moves to the president for signature. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had threatened to block the bill, but it passed with a 92-6 vote.

Congressional bickering has prevented Congress from passing a long-term FAA funding bill since the last one expired in 2007, and today’s bill marks the 22nd short-term continuing resolution in the last four years. Republicans have pushed for a long-term bill with a provision that would make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize and are at odds with Democrats over millions of dollars in subsidies to rural airports.

After the Federal Aviation Administration was partially shut down for two weeks earlier this summer, today’s Congressional action averts another shutdown, as the agency’s current spending authority was set to expire at midnight Friday, Sept. 16.

During the partial FAA shut down in late July and early August, nearly 4,000 federal employees were furloughed and more than 200 stop-work orders were issued for airport construction and other projects. The shut down also left an additional 70,000 construction workers in limbo and amounted to $400 million in uncollected airline taxes.

Another item of continuous Congressional debate is whether or not to address back pay for federal workers furloughed earlier this year. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica has publicly supported a separate, bipartisan piece of legislation that would provide back pay for the employees.

“While it’s certainly positive news that Congress has approved another continuing resolution, the FAA is still operating on a series of short-term fixes since 2007,” said AEA President Paula Derks. “It is time to put partisan politics aside and approve a long-term piece of legislation. Without it, the FAA’s ability to strategically commit to the infrastructure improvements necessary to fully implement NextGen is in jeopardy.”

The AEA encourages its members to contact members of Congress and urge them to pass a long-term FAA bill.