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Showdown Over FAA Extension Continues

The showdown between the House and Senate over a new short-term extension of FAA operating and funding authority continues to escalate with no end in sight.

There have been 20 short-term extensions of Vision-100, the FAA authorizing law that was enacted in 2003, since its expiration nearly four years ago. These continuations are usually non-controversial and routine. The current extension of Vision-100 ends on Friday, July 22, at midnight.

The usual process looks like this: the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman introduces a bill that extends FAA operating authority for a short period. The House approves the legislation with near unanimity and the Senate follows suit. That extension nears expiration and the process is repeated.

However, for the 21st extension, House Republicans elected to include provisions excluding funding for Essential Air Service (EAS) communities that are located less than 90 miles from the nearest large or medium hub airport or have an average per passenger subsidy rate of $1,000 or more in addition to continuing agency operating and funding authority through Sept. 16. The only other time policy was attached to an extension was last year when a short-term continuation included pilot fatigue and safety reform that resulted from the Colgan Air accident in New York.

While the 90-mile provision was included in the Senate-passed FAA bill, the subsidy language was not, prompting Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the President, and others to oppose House-passed extension with the EAS provisions attached. Senate Democratic leaders have refused to bring the House bill up for consideration and the Senate introduced its own clean FAA extension through Sept. 16. However, this move is largely symbolic, as revenue-related bills must originate in the lower chamber. The House approved their extension yesterday.

Where do we stand now? We have an old-fashioned House v. Senate battle with no easy resolution in sight. The House strongly supports their extension with the EAS program cuts and the Senate refuses to consider any continuation that contains policy (particularly policy that will allow House Republicans to claim a victory). With the current extension expiring Friday at midnight, there is real possibility operating and funding authority for the FAA will lapse.

The biggest question among the aviation community in Washington, D.C., is how will failure to extend Vision-100 impact the FAA? There is not an easy answer. Aircraft controllers will continue to work. Planes won’t be grounded. However, about 4,000 “non-essential” employees will be furloughed. A number of taxes that support infrastructure projects and FAA operations would expire. The surcharge on domestic airfare and the excise taxes on commercial aircraft, general aviation fuels could be impacted. Would inspections and certifications be delayed? That remains to be seen.

ARSA consistently opposes attaching policy to extensions. Congress should either pass a new, comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill or enact clean extensions until a long-term bill is completed. Policy riders on extensions not only provide our industry’s opponents prime opportunities to insert detrimental provisions, but it continues to allow Congress an “out” from doing its fundamental job—enacting a comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill to provide certainty for the aviation sector. Consequently, extensions should be clean and free of policy.

We need to ensure lawmakers don’t use future extensions as a vehicle to enact provisions detrimental to repair stations. Click here to use ARSAaction.org to send a quick note to Capitol Hill urging Congress not to use FAA extensions to detrimentally impact repair stations.

~~~ posted 07/21/11 ~~~



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