Congress Approves FAA Extension Ahead of Deadline

The House sent a short-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration to President Trump for signing Thursday, averting a partial shutdown of the agency that would have begun Sunday.

On Thursday afternoon, the House approved the 2017 Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act (H.R. 3823) by a vote of 264-155. The bill continues the FAA’s authority for six months, and it includes provisions providing tax relief for victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and extending some Medicare and other health care programs.

The vote came just hours after House lawmakers voted 244-171 to send a broader version of the bill to the Senate for consideration. Congress had until Saturday to reauthorize the FAA. House Republicans earlier this month planned to approve a full reauthorization of the agency, but settled for a short-term extension after lawmakers passed a series of hurricane relief packages and an increase in the debt ceiling. The Senate’s tepid reception to a controversial measure that would spin off FAA’s air traffic control operations into a private, nonprofit entity also jeopardized the long-term bill.

On Monday, GOP lawmakers attempted to approve the measure under fast track rules, which require a two-thirds majority, but Democrats successfully blocked it.

The source of Democrats’ ire was an additional measure that would have expanded the private flood insurance market, arguing it would destabilize the government-run National Flood Insurance Program and that such a change should be considered within the context of broader reform and reauthorization of NFIP, which is set to expire in December.

“This began as a must-pass reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, but has now become a Christmas tree for unrelated Republican priorities,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. “This would not address the resilience of the National Flood Insurance Program, help families to recover or improve our country’s response to natural disasters. No, the Republican response [to these hurricanes] is to muscle through an expansion of private flood insurance, long sought after by the insurance industry.”

Waters said she does not oppose the flood insurance provisions on a policy basis, but said FAA reauthorization should not be the vehicle with which to approve it.

“I voted for this in the last Congress, and again when we marked it up in committee earlier this year,” she said. “But moving this bill forward at this time, while ignoring all the other policy responses needed for the National Flood Insurance Program and ongoing natural disasters is simply irresponsible.”

Shortly after the House approved the short-term bill, the Senate passed it through unanimous consent. But before doing so, Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., successfully removed the flood insurance provisions with an amendment.

With the House approval of the Senate’s amendment, the measure heads to the White House for enactment. The new deadline for FAA reauthorization will be March 31, 2018.

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