House approves bills extending funds for FAA, highways

The House on Tuesday afternoon easily approved legislation that extends taxes that fund the Federal Aviation Administration for more than three months, and extends taxes that fund federal highway spending for six months.

Members approved the bipartisan bill by voice vote, under a suspension of House rules. The bill was announced Monday as the result of a bipartisan agreement between House and Senate leaders.

Some extension of FAA and highway taxes is needed this month. FAA funding expires Friday, but is extended through January under the bill; funding for federal highway programs expires at the end of September, but would be extended through March.

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The bill, H.R. 2887, marks the 22nd temporary extension of FAA funding, and the eighth extension of federal highway programs. But House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) vowed on Tuesday that this would be the last temporary extension for the FAA.

This is the 22nd extension, and I can guarantee it will be the last extension, because we must and we will pass a four-year authorization, he said on the floor. Mica also said he wants a six-year highway bill.

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A longer-term FAA funding bill has been held up by House Republican demands for $4 billion in FAA cuts and language that would make it harder to form air unions. The highway bill has also been held up by a dispute over funding. Republicans have pressed for a bill spending about $40 billion annually for six years, while Democrats have sought a two-year bill spending more than $50 billion per year.

Several Democrats on Tuesday welcomed the clean extension of FAA and highway funding, and said the legislation stands in contrast to a bill House Republicans pressed for in July. That bill would have cut off subsidies to three airports — including one in the home state of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The Senate rejected that bill, leading to a two-week shutdown of FAA construction projects.

Democrats also supported the bill on Tuesday because it would not cut funding from fiscal year 2011 levels, unlike other Republican proposals.

The funding levels in the pending measure are far more preferable than what we are seeing being proposed by Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, said Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.).

With House passage, the bill moves to the Senate, which is also expected to approve the language.

-- This post was updated at 1:45 p.m. to correctly attribute Rep. Rahall's quote.