U.S. Senate to Vote on FAA Reauthorization Bill Amid Key Battles

The U.S. Senate is set to vote on a $105 billion FAA reauthorization bill, with battles over adding flights to Reagan National Airport and other key provisions. Congress must act by May 10 to avoid a lapse in agency operations.

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Bijay Laxmi
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U.S. Senate to Vote on FAA Reauthorization Bill Amid Key Battles

U.S. Senate to Vote on FAA Reauthorization Bill Amid Key Battles

The U.S. Senate is set to vote on a $105 billion bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for five years by the May 10 deadline. The 1,000-page bill, negotiated by bipartisan congressional leaders, includes provisions to raise hiring targets for air traffic control, codify a rule requiring airlines to offer refunds for canceled or significantly delayed flights, and add flights to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport despite opposition from Virginia and Maryland senators.

One of the key battles in the bill is over the provision to add five new roundtrip flights at Reagan National Airport. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has released a statement opposing this measure, arguing that the airport is already one of the busiest in the U.S. and the additional flights would jeopardize passenger safety, increase delays and cancellations, and weaken access to small- and medium-sized communities. Manchin plans to push for a vote on an amendment to remove this provision.

Why this matters: The FAA reauthorization bill is a critical piece of legislation that will govern the agency's operations and funding for the next five years. The bill's passage is seen as a 'must-pass' vehicle for other legislative priorities before the upcoming election, making it a target for potential amendments on issues such as cannabis banking and stablecoin cryptocurrency reform.

The bill also includes funding for safety programs, infrastructure improvements, and consumer protection measures like requiring airlines to offer cash refunds for long delays and barring them from charging families to sit together. However, the bill excludes some consumer protections proposed by the Biden administration.

Procedural votes are scheduled for the Senate's session, but lingering policy disagreements, particularly around adding more flights at Reagan National Airport, are likely to be debated on the Senate floor before final passage. Congress must reauthorize the FAA by May 10 to avoid a lapse in agency operations.

The National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) has commended the House and Senate Committee leadership for finding a bipartisan agreement on this critical legislation and has urged Congress to pass the bill quickly before the current authorization expires. "The legislation includes a provision that could authorize direct flights from San Antonio, Texas to Ronald Reagan International Airport (DCA) in Washington D.C.," said Congressman Joaquin Castro, who is urging the Senate to pass the FAA Reauthorization Act and reject any amendments that would remove the possibility for additional flights out of DCA.

Key Takeaways

  • Senate to vote on $105B FAA reauthorization bill by May 10 deadline
  • Bill includes provisions to raise air traffic control hiring, require airline refunds
  • Debate over adding 5 flights to Reagan National Airport, opposed by Sen. Manchin
  • Bill excludes some consumer protections proposed by Biden administration
  • NASAO and Rep. Castro urge Senate to pass bill, including DCA flight provision