Aviation bill cleared for takeoff

The Senate voted on Thursday afternoon 96-2 to limit debate on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill, clearing its way for final passage.

The only dissenting votes came from Senate conservatives Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who advocated for an amendment earlier this week to slash funding in the bill back to 2008 levels. That measure failed.

Limiting debate, or reaching cloture, required 60 votes while the vote on final passage requires just a simple majority. The authorization bill is almost certain to succeed in its final vote that will occur on Thursday or Friday.

The major content of the bill, which seeks to improve aviation infrastructure and funding security services, are fairly non-controversial. The legislation, however, remained mired in the upper chamber for nearly three weeks as senators argued over collective bargaining rights for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees and how many flights should be added to Washington, D.C.'s, Reagan National Airport.

Now that cloture has been reached, the Senate will spend a maximum of 30 hours on further debate before the final vote. Party leadership, however, will try to reach an agreement to shorten that time so senators can return home a little early for the Presidents Day recess.

Amendments are allowed during the post-cloture period of debate and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he expected to take up eight or nine more Thursday afternoon.