Senate and House leaders have reached agreement on a thorny labor issue, clearing the way for a final deal on a multiyear Federal Aviation Administration authorization, which is more than four years overdue.

FAA programs, including the agency's airport construction grants, have been operating under a long series of stopgap measures since September 2007, when the last long-term aviation bill expired. The latest stopgap, the 22rd in that series, lapses on Jan. 31.

The agreement, between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), announced Jan. 20, is viewed as a major step towards passing a long-term FAA bill.

But with a handful of other issues still to be worked out, and the Jan. 31 deadline looming, the House on Jan. 24 approved a new extension to keep FAA programs running through Feb. 17.  A Senate vote is the next step.

One Hill source says, "We're ready to move quickly and we're doing everything we can to wrap things up."

Jane Calderwood, Airports Council International-North America vice president for government and political affairs, praised the Reid-Boehner deal. She said, "It is good news that there has been a breakthrough—even if it was 10 months in the making—and we are eager to see the final bill language on key issues including funding, safety management system and other issues which directly impact ACI-NA's members."

Reid said, "I am pleased that we were able to resolve the major obstacles to an agreement in a manner that protects American workers and clears the way for a long-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration. He added, "While some issues  remain, there is no reason we cannot resolve them in the coming days and avoid any risk of another FAA shutdown."

Reid was referring to a House-Senate standoff last July over extending FAA authorizations that shut down dozens of airport construction projects for two weeks and caused furloughs of about 4,000 of the agency's 47,000 workers. The deal is an indication that he and Boehner didn't want to see a repeat of that situation.

Reid said, "Every issue does not have to be a fight." He said the deal shows the positive results when members of the two parties work together.