Slots issue at DC airport is holding up FAA legislation, says Senate leader

A debate over adding more long-distance flights to and from Reagan Washington National Airport is holding up the entire Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a floor speech Tuesday morning.

Reid said he would file cloture on the FAA bill Monday even if senators had not managed to come to an agreement. He also suggested senators should finish backroom dealings and bring all amendments to the floor for a vote.

Federal law allows only 12 long-distance flights (non-stop over 1,250 miles) to and from Reagan each day. The remaining long-distance flights are diverted to Dulles Airport and Baltimore-Washington Airport (BWI), both about 30 miles from the District.

West Coast senators in particular, such as Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), want to add slots at Reagan National to stimulate long-distance travel to and from their states. They say their constituents have a right to easy access to the nation’s capital.

Members of Congress who represent districts including, or near, BWI and Dulles airports, however, fear their districts could suffer if Reagan National is given more long-distance slots.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has argued such a move would “subvert” and “undermine” the local transportation economy.

Reid Monday called on members to reach an agreement.

"We all know there is a lot of feigning going on around here and a lot of posturing," said Reid. "It will not be resolved except for here on the Senate floor."

“We are not playing around with this slot issue for another year,” said Reid. “This issue [FAA funding] has to pass."