Legislative Activity

FAA Reauthorization Coming Into Focus

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) is expected to release a draft Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill soon, and it could be as early as this week. The current six-month FAA Reauthorization extension expires on March 31. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) has said the Senate will wait for the House to consider its FAA Reauthorization first before taking up the Senate’s own bill.

The main sticking point now is Chairman Shuster’s plan to reform air traffic control (ATC), removing it from the federal government and creating a separate non-profit entity. Supporters of this approach to ATC reform argue it will protect ATC from the annual appropriations process, increase efficiency, and lead to better performance in safety, modernization, and NextGen implementation. A variety of groups oppose ATC reform, including the general aviation community and many Congressional Democrats. Recently, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) joined consumer advocacy groups to form a coalition opposed to ATC reform, Americans Against Air Traffic Privatization. Additionally, last week the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee sent a bipartisan letter to the Senate Commerce Committee opposing any proposal that would exempt ATC from the annual appropriations process, including Chairman Shuster’s proposal. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has publicly supported moving ATC out of the FAA, but keeping it as a government-controlled entity to maintain worker protections.

While both Chairman Shuster and Chairman Thune have said they want to pass FAA Reauthorization before the current extension expires on March 31, Congress may need to pass another short-term extension to allow time to work out differences between the House and Senate reauthorization bills. The last multi-year FAA reauthorization required 23 short-term extensions before it was passed in 2012, but the recent five-year surface transportation reauthorization provides some reason for optimism that Congress will be able to reach an agreement on a long-term FAA Reauthorization bill as well.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, February 2: The House Judiciary Committee, Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee will hold a hearing on H.R. 1057, the “Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade, and Sales (PARTS) Act of 2015.”