Congress has approved another short extension for the Federal Aviation Administration that aims to prevent shutting off funding at the end of the month for FAA, including its $3.35-billion airport construction grant program.
The stopgap, running through July 15, also would give lawmakers more time to make progress on differing, longer-term measures that have cleared committees in the House and Senate..
Final congressional action on the three-and-a-half-month extension came on March 21, when the House passed a measure that Senate had approved four days earlier. The legislation now goes to the White House for President Obama’s expected signature. Enactment is needed by March 31, when the current stopgap expires.
The next step would be House and Senate floor votes on their longer-range FAA reauthorizations. The 18-month-long bill that the Senate commerce committee cleared on March 16 raises FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) construction grants 12% in 2017, to $3.75 billion.
The six-year measure that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved Feb. 11 boosts AIP 7% in 2017, to $3.6 billion, with further annual increases, reaching just under $4 billion in 2022.
Both bills also retain the current $4.50 cap on passenger facility charges, which fund infrastructure projects. Airport groups have long been lobbying for an increase in the limit.
The largest difference between the House and Senate bills, however, concerns FAA’s role of managing the U.S. air traffic control (ATC) system. In the House transportation committee’s bill, Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) successfully pushed to include language to move FAA’s ATC responsibilities to a new nonfederal corporation.
But the Senate commerce panel’s version keeps air traffic control operations within FAA. The Senate committee’s ranking Democrat, Bill Nelson (Fla.), has said his party colleagues in the Senate continue to oppose an ATC spinoff.
Corrected on March 23 to state that House committee's bill includes $3.6 billion for AIP in 2017.