Melanie Zanona THE HILL
Senate Panel Readies Must-Pass Aviation Bill
June 20, 2017
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  • A Senate panel is finishing work on a must-pass aviation bill, which could see a committee vote in the next few weeks, according to several senators.

    Lawmakers in both chambers have been crafting separate long-term proposals to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), whose legal authority expires at the end of September.

    Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that a markup could happen as early as next week.

    And Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the aviation operations subcommittee, said lawmakers were still putting the finishing touches on the bill.

    “We’re working through it, and I hope we’ll be able to present to the committee in July,” Blunt told reporters.

    Blunt said they were still “undecided” on whether to take up President Trump’s controversial proposal to separate air traffic control from the federal government, which would represent a dramatic shift in how the country’s air navigation system operates. 

    But later in the day, Thune confirmed that the panel has decided not to include the proposal, citing a lack of support for the plan.

    The idea received an icy reception from senators earlier this month, with GOP lawmakers raising concerns over whether rural airports and general aviation users would be adequately protected and represented under the new model.

    The spinoff proposal is generally more preferred by Republicans across the Capitol, where the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is preparing to soon unveil a long-term FAA bill that will include spinoff language.

    A similar proposal was included in the House’s long-term FAA reauthorization last year but stalled amid opposition from GOP tax-writers and appropriators, forcing lawmakers to instead enact a short-term patch. 

    Senators have warned that the same thing could happen again if they pursue the spinoff plan, especially with a packed calendar and few remaining legislative days before the FAA’s legal authority expires.

    “With the administration’s support of this concept, the chances of getting a long-term FAA reauthorization in my view have now been diminished,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said earlier this month.

     — This story was updated at 3:15 p.m.