The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed H.R. 3800, a bill extending the Federal Aviation Administration’s authorities through February 17. This marks the 23rd extension since the long-term FAA law expired in 2007.
The FAA bill will now appear before the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate. H.R. 3800’s passage in the House, however, “clears the way for negotiators to complete work on a final long-term FAA reauthorization,” according to a press release issued by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
To Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), it’s a particularly noteworthy feat. “With this extension in place, Congress can now bring to conclusion a long-overdue FAA bill,” he said in a statement.
“This should be a bipartisan, bicameral effort,” Mica continued. “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.”
The absence of a long-term bill has certainly caused problems in the past. In July, a bipartisan dispute led to the 13-day partial shutdown of the FAA, causing nearly 4,000 airline workers to be furloughed and dozens of aviation projects to be immobilized.
“Unless Congress acts quickly, more work on projects critical to our nation’s aviation system will come to a halt,” Former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said at the time. “Work is stopping on construction and planning projects, NextGen system testing, and airport certification. The list goes on and on — and this is just the beginning.”
The FAA’s partial shutdown temporarily affected the renovations of air traffic control towers at Las Vegas-based McCarran International Airport; New York-based LaGuardia Airport; Gulfport, Miss.-based Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport; Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Battle Creek International Airport and California-based Palm Springs International Airport, among others.
Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI) hopes the passage of H.R. 3800 will prevent similar projects from being delayed in the future. “This long, incredibly drawn-out process is, hopefully, almost over,” Petri said in a statement. “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.”