Lithium battery air transport a point of contention in FAA debate

Democrats pounced on this amendment as one of many reasons why they do not support Mica's bill. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said failing to let FAA go beyond international regulatory standards "could bring down an airplane."

The FAA has been thought to be on the verge of imposing tough standards for lithium batteries over fears that these batteries, commonly found in laptop computers, pacemakers and other electrical goods, pose a fire hazard. Companies that ship lithium batteries by air have been worried that tougher rules would significantly raise the cost of transporting goods around the world.

Mica rejected Democratic fears of increased fire hazards, and said failing to limit the FAA on this issue could be costly for companies.

"If we didn't have this provision in there, there's be a $1.1 billion dollar impact on industry," he said. "This is a good provision. It needs to be in the bill."

Democrats were generally opposing the bill because it would cut $2 billion for airport improvement funds, which many said would lead to 70,000 job cuts. Democrats also objected to cuts to the Essential Air Services program, which provides a subsidy for rural air travel.

The House was expected to continue considering amendments to the bill into Thursday night and Friday morning. Members had debated seven of the 33 amendments under consideration by shortly after 5 p.m.