Reported by Lillianna Byington and Andrew Small for Bloomberg Government.
The August recess might not be much of a break for anyone working on FAA reauthorization as lobbying and staff negotiations in Congress race against a September deadline.
Despite the aviation agency battling flight delays, staff shortages, and stalled tech upgrades, the Senate left town last week without agreeing on legislation to renew the FAA’s authority.
The legislation (S. 1939) sat for over a month in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee over provisions for pilot training. That punt to the fall makes getting agreement all the more urgent when both chambers return from recess.
The House passed its version of the bill (H.R. 3935) in mid-July and doesn’t return until Sept. 12, leaving little time for the Senate to pass its own bill and conference with the other chamber. The deadlock also threatens to sideline senators’ favored provisions due to the time crunch, according to Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).
“It puts the Senate in an untenable situation of waiting until we return in September and having the House language, so our colleagues here, right before the deadline, may not get the full consideration of their very important amendments,” Cantwell said.
Senators said they and their staffs plan to continue to negotiate on the legislation through recess. One of the biggest sticking points is revising a rule requiring 1,500 training hours for commercial pilots, with up to 100 of those hours allowed in a simulator.
Some air carriers and lawmakers sought to ease the rules with more simulator hours to help with staffing challenges, but crash victim families and pilot unions argue against changes and Democrats alternative proposals on how to address the pilot shortage fell flat in negotiations so far. Lillianna Byington has the latest outlook on reauthorization.