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New Hurdles for FAA Funding Bill in Senate

September 15, 2011 – Hopes for avoiding another showdown over FAA funding that caused staff furloughs and project delays this summer dimmed somewhat on Thursday, as the U.S. Senate was stalled in a partisan standoff over transportation funding and a separate disaster aid bill.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed via voice vote the “Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011,” a temporary funding bill that extends funding at current levels for the FAA through January 30, 2012. H.R. 2887 then moved on to the Senate with the hopes that it would be approved and sent to President Obama for his signature before the current funding extension expires this Friday, September 16. The bill also calls for highway funding to be extended from October 1 through March 31, 2012.

However, disagreement over the FAA funding bill and a procedural move that bumped the bill back in line for consideration has now raised doubts. The Senate is also considering an emergency disaster aid bill for FEMA, and on Wednesday voted to act on the FEMA first. That means the FAA funding measure can only be considered after action on the FEMA bill.

With the FEMA bill heading for Senate floor debate, the FAA funding legislation would have to wait unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) would move it back to the head of the line, which is unlikely.

As the funding bill includes money for both FAA and surface transportation such as roads, disputes between Democrats and Republicans have emerged as to what should be included in the highway funding portion of the measure. If the measure is not passed by the weekend, it would again mean the furloughs of 4,000 FAA employees and temporary layoffs of an estimated 70,000 working on airport construction jobs.

As noted Tuesday by Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin), the House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman who represents EAA’s home district, “As we saw this summer with the unfortunate two-week partial shutdown of the FAA, until the Senate finally approved the House-passed extension, we cannot afford the chaos and inefficiencies of a shutdown let alone the job impact affecting both public and private sector workers. We need full reauthorization bills because our nation’s infrastructure is the backbone of our economy and we must have a first class system to support economic growth and remain competitive in the world economy. But until we negotiate the full bills, we need these extensions.”

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