House Gives FAA Authorization a 21-Punt Salute

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(Washington, DC) The House extended Federal Aviation Administration authorization on Wednesday. For the 21st time.

House lawmakers backed a  two month extension of current FAA law, 243 to 177, as a long-term extension bill waits in negotiations with the Senate. It was the 21st short-term FAA extension since Congress last succeeded on a longer-term bill in 2007.

“We hope there won’t be another one,” said Justin Harclerode, a spokesman for House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fl.)

Temporary extensions like this one normally pass Congress with little notice. But today there’s a twist. Mica added a bit of language to Wednesday’s bill paring back the controversial Essential Air Service program, which for years has subsidized smaller regional airports serving areas far from big hubs. Mica’s bill excludes from the program any airport getting more than $1,000 per passenger in federal aid. That would cut off three airports, according to congressional aides. This comes at a time when private airlines are looking to scale back US subsidized service and after a long term trend of fewer short haul flights.

The move drew annoyed responses from Democrats, who accuse Mica of going back on previous agreements on EAS.

Now it will be up to the Senate to accept the tweaked House bill or refuse to act and force the House to send it a “clean” extension. The latter is far more likely.

The Department of Transportation has urged Congress to pass a "clean" version, saying that without a full year extension furloughs will begin on July 23 and $600 million in airport construction projects compromised.