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January 26, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
Despite 23 short-term FAA reauthorization bills and a brief partial shutdown last summer, House and Senate Transportation members from both parties expressed new optimism that the way has finally been cleared for a long-term authorization package for the agency.
The House and Senate passed the twenty-third short-term extension of the agency’s operating authority this week, keeping the FAA in business until Feb. 17 while remaining details of a longer-term bill can be negotiated.
The major past sticking point—a contentious labor provision dealing with the National Mediation Board—was resolved in House-Senate negotiations last week, said a reauthorization status report on the committee’s home page. “With this agreement in place, Members of the House and Senate are now working to resolve the few remaining issues in the larger FAA reauthorization,” it said.
“I think the issues are all put to bed, and so we just have to have the conference do it,” said Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, according to Congressional Quarterly.
Now that short-term reauthorization has been extended again, Congress can “bring to conclusion a long-overdue FAA bill,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla. ). “This should be a bipartisan, bicameral effort. Improvements to our nation’s aviation infrastructure, modernization of our air traffic control system, and reform of FAA programs are almost five years overdue. A long-term bill will set national aviation policy and have a major impact on jobs.”
House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-Wis.) expressed confidence that “this long, incredibly drawn-out process is, hopefully, almost over.”
“Let this be the last extension, to be followed by a long-sought reauthorization of the FAA. We must not delay any longer when it comes to air traffic control modernization and other vital initiatives.”
“We applaud Congress for addressing the stalemate that has held up final negotiations on the FAA reauthorization bill and look forward to celebrating a four-year reauthorization bill in the near future,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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