Racing against a midnight Sept. 30 deadline, Congress approved a 10-week government-wide spending bill and a separate extension to keep Federal Aviation Administration programs, including construction grants, operating for six months.

But the short span of the stopgap appropriations bill ensures that the congressional debate over federal spending will continue through the fall.

President Obama signed both bills into law on Sept. 30, just hours before the deadline.

The final congressional action on the spending stopgap, or continuing resolution, came on Sept. 30, when the House approved a Senate-passed measure, on a 277-151 vote. The bill funds agencies through Dec. 11.

After the House vote, Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) criticized having to turn to yet another short-term measure "to keep the lights on in government" but he said that the bill was "absolutely necessary, as the alternative—a government shutdown—is reckless and irresponsible."

Rogers, like some other key lawmakers, also called for a budget agreement to set overall federal spending levels.  That agreement would have to be bipartisan and involve leaders of both houses of Congress and perhaps the White House.

A budget framework would allow Congress to pass detailed appropriations legislation for the rest of fiscal 2016, setting sums for each line item, including construction programs.

The FAA measure won Senate approval on Sept. 29, one day before the agency's current authorization was due to expire. The House had passed the bill on Sept. 28. It expires at the end of March.

Airports Council International-North America CEO Kevin Burke and American Association of Airport Executives CEO Todd Hauptli, in a joint statement, praised the House and Senate for extending FAA programs at their full 2015 funding rates.

But they added that “airports need a long-term solution that provides them with the self-help they need to meet growing infrastructure development needs.”

Airport groups had called on Congress to approve a one- or two-year extension, saying that airport managers needed funding assurance for at least that long to plan their infrastructure projects.
FAA’s major construction activity is its Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, which finance runways, taxiways and other infrastructure.  The new stopgap authorizes $1.67 billion for AIP, which equals half of the program’s full-year 2015 appropriation.

AIP is particularly important for small airports, which lack large hub airfields’ ability to use the bond market for capital programs.

Airport groups also want Congress to increase the $4.50 ceiling on passenger facility charges, another important infrastructure financing source. But the new six-month bill leaves PFC's at their current level.