The full Senate passed the 2017 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Act in an 89-to-8 vote on May 19. The Senate bill includes $16.4 billion in funding for the FAA for 2017, up slightly from the $16.28 billion enacted for 2016. That number includes funding for air traffic control, $1 billion for NextGen, $159 million for contract towers, and $7 million for ongoing research into an unleaded replacement for avgas.
The Senate vote came one day after the House THUD Subcommittee approved its own funding bill. The House bill would provide $16.3 billion to the FAA, a $69 million increase over 2016 spending and just slightly less than the Senate measure. The House bill also would fund air traffic control, NextGen, and contract towers at approximately the same levels as the Senate bill.
While the THUD appropriation bills in the House and Senate would provide funding for the FAA, they are separate from FAA reauthorization legislation that is also pending in Congress. Reauthorization legislation “authorizes” the expenditure of money from the federal budget and may create programs, identify agency priorities, and even specify how much money should be spent on specific programs. But reauthorization legislation does not actually provide the money from the federal budget to pay for these programs. Appropriations bills, like the THUD bills, allocate funding for federal programs such as the FAA.
In April, the full Senate passed FAA reauthorization legislation that includes third class medical reform and which would keep the FAA operating through the 2017 fiscal year. The House has introduced its own reauthorization legislation, which also includes medical reforms, but that bill has been mired in controversy over proposals to privatize air traffic control. It is not clear when the full House might take up FAA reauthorization.