House approves six-month FAA funding extension

The House approved a bill on Monday to extend federal aviation funding, which is currently set to expire on Wednesday, until March 2016. 

The measure, introduced on Friday by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), was approved by the lower chamber on a voice vote Monday afternoon in an effort to prevent an interruption in the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) funding midweek. 

The quick House action follows an earlier Senate effort to attach the FAA funding extension to a bill to prevent a government shutdown on Oct. 1 that failed last week. 

The Senate had included a similar six-month extension of the FAA's funding in its funding bill, but the language was dropped from the spending bill amid partisan squabbling over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. 

The chamber is expected to take up the new House measure from Shuster, known as the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2015 (H.R. 3614), sometime before the scheduled expiration of federal aviation funding.   

Lawmakers warned that allowing the FAA authorization to lapse — like in the summer of 2011 — would have devastating consequences for the aviation industry.

"We cannot afford even the thought of a shutdown of the FAA," said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.

The six-month reauthorization buys Congress time to negotiate a long-term FAA measure.

"I would encourage all members to support this six-month extension to give us the time to get our bill on and off the floor and let the Senate work on it so we can truly do something that’s bold, do something that’s transformational, and do something that’ll be very, very positive for aviation," Bill Shuster said.

The FAA's previous appropriations measure, which includes funding for air traffic controllers, is set to expire on Wednesday night, along with funding for most federal government functions. 

The language extending the FAA's funding until March 31, 2016 was pulled from the Senate's bill to prevent a government shutdown because Democrats and a handful of Republicans opposed the measure that would have extended the funding in the Senate because it would have transferred money that normally goes to Planned Parenthood to other community health providers. 

Lawmakers had been expected to roll the temporary extension for the FAA into the broader measure to prevent a government shutdown, because Congress is still mired in debate about a separate long-term surface transportation funding bill.  

The FAA deadline has flown under the radar for most of the year as lawmakers have focused on the highway funding measure, which is now set to expire Oct. 29. 

The FAA has before been at the center of budget battles in Washington. The agency’s last funding measure, in 2012, was passed following a string of more than 20 temporary extensions that resulted in a partial shutdown of the agency in 2011. 

The agency's funding was also cut in the 2013 sequester, resulting in air traffic controller furloughs and flight delays, before Congress passed a quick fix to restore the spending. 

-Cristina Marcos contributed to this report.