The FAA Reauthorization passed another major hurdle Thursday night, and the prospects of final approval by the end of next week look good.  The full Senate voted 88-4 to approve the “bicameral, bipartisan” compromise bill worked out by House and Senate negotiators at the end of April.  That bill, which weighs in at over 1,000 pages, secures  FAA funding and sets FAA priorities through 2028.    

The compromise bill ran into trouble almost immediately after it was announced, with Senators seeking to add over 100 amendments.  In addition, because many viewed it as the last, best chance to advance unrelated projects, a large number of the amendments were on completely unrelated topics, including the:

  • Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act
  • Law Enforcement and Victim Support Act of 2024
  • Reauthorization of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act
  • Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2024.

In addition, a number of amendments were introduced on the “hot button” issues for the reauthorization, including the 1,500-hour pilot rule, raising the pilot retirement age, and both increasing and eliminating the number of additional slots for flights at Reagan National Airport.

After a week of negotiation, the Senators reached a compromise to eliminate virtually all of the amendments, as it was recognized that any substantial additions to the bill could lead to its failure when it went back to the House, likely setting back the reauthorization until the fall, or more likely, the lame duck session of Congress after the November elections.

As it turned out, the last serious holdout that almost derailed the effort was the slot issue and whether more flights would be added to Reagan National Airport.  The “local” Maryland and Virginia Senators vehemently opposed the expansion based on safety concerns, and threatened to stop the reauthorization unless the provisions were removed.  Senator Schumer floated a last-minute compromise amendment, allowing the compromise bill’s addition of 10 new slots to  remain, with the final approval of the flights handed to the Department of Transportation, which would decide whether the expansion was in the public interest.  That compromise was objected to, with threats that allowing that amendment would open the door to consideration of a flood of additional amendments.  Late Thursday, the Maryland and Virginia Senators withdrew their objection and allowed the matter to proceed to a vote, with the Maryland and Virginia Senators as the only “no” votes. 

In addition to passing the bill, the Senate also passed a one-week extension to the FAA’s authority, which was set to expire at midnight tonight.  This extension is expected to give the House enough time to consider and pass the bill when it returns next week.

So, what is in the bill and what does it mean for you?  We answered that question yesterday during our free 90-minute webinar on the Reauthorization Act and its key components.  For those of you who missed it and would like to view the materials, the recording can be viewed HERE.

As always, if anything changes during the final efforts to pass the bill in the House, we will let you know.