House approves rule for FAA extension bill that limits Essential Air Service

Under the House bill, EAS subsidies would only be made available to small airports that are more than 90 miles away from medium or large airports (although this could be waived), and to airports whose average passenger subsidy under the program is less than $1,000 per passenger.

House Republicans on Wednesday cast these changes as needed reforms given the ongoing fiscal crisis facing the federal government. They also noted that similar provisions were included in a Senate-passed bill that would extend FAA funding for several years.

House and Senate Democrats have rejected this policy rider, and Democrats in the Senate have said they would not accept the bill for that reason.

In addition, the Senate-approved bill is not quite the same. That bill, S. 223, would require airports to be more than 90 miles away from a medium or large airport and would require them to have an average of 10 airplane boardings per day.

The House bill up today would be the 21st short-term FAA funding extension since a longer-term authorization expired in 2007. The House and Senate have each approved their own longer-term funding bills (the House bill is H.R. 658), but these have stalled over disagreement with House language that would make it harder to form air and rail unions.