Congress Funds FAA (For A Few More Weeks)

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The Senate Thursday followed the House and approved a stopgap funding measure that will carry the FAA through Feb. 17 at current funding levels. The temporary measure provides funds through airport taxes and precedes another vote on long-term funding, which is expected to take place in February. The temporary measure is the 23rd of its kind and it replaces another that was set to expire on Jan. 31. The last long-term FAA reauthorization bill expired in 2007. For two weeks in 2011, Congress failed to provide either temporary or long-term authorization for the FAA, leading the agency to temporarily furlough thousands of workers and possibly tens of thousands of contractors. Current reports suggest lawmakers are optimistic they can reach an agreement prior to the new Feb. 17 deadline.

A long-term funding bill may address issues like the carriage of lithium batteries on cargo aircraft, funding for airport improvement projects and subsidies for rural operators. Labor laws regarding how airline employees could unionize derailed previous talks between House and Senate leaders. A potential compromise could strip out language related to unionizing efforts and leave that issue to be considered separately. Cynics are more concerned that the turmoil of the current election cycle and the departure of former FAA administrator Randy Babbitt could adversely influence some important players.