GOP chairman: Senate will take up House FAA bill

GOP chairman: Senate will take up House FAA bill
© Greg Nash

The Senate will likely take up whatever short-term aviation bill the House ends up passing this week, despite concerns in the lower chamber over the current measure, said one GOP chairman.

“Ideally, a clean bill would be the way to have it come over,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate panel approves GOP tax plan Republicans see rising Dem odds in Alabama Overnight Health Care: Nearly 1.5M sign up for ObamaCare so far | Schumer says Dems won't back ObamaCare deal if it's tied to tax bill | House passes fix to measure letting Pentagon approve medical treatments MORE (R-S.D.), head of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told reporters on Tuesday.  “But I think whatever they send over here, we will try and move, because we’ve got to do it very quickly.

“There are some add-ons that there may be an issue or two with, but we’ll try to work our way through.”

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The short-term patch is needed to keep the FAA running past Sept. 30, when the agency’s current legal authority expires. But the House’s FAA package, which would reauthorize the agency for just six months, also includes additional provisions to encourage private flood insurance markets and to provide tax relief for hurricane victims.

House Democrats blocked the FAA extension from passing on Monday under a fast-track procedure that requires a two-thirds majority, citing concerns over the unrelated policy riders that were tacked onto the bill.

Now the FAA measure will have to come to the House floor under a normal procedure that requires a simple majority for passage, with a vote not likely to happen until Thursday.

With lawmakers already up against the clock, that leaves little time for the Senate to make any changes to the bill.

That could be problematic for Democrats such as Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonReport: FCC chair to push for complete repeal of net neutrality Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  MORE (Fla.), who said that any FAA extension “needs to be clean.”

But while Nelson said he opposed the FAA package as is, he stopped short of vowing to vote against the legislation. Nelson, who is up for reelection next year and could be challenged by Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, has been dealing with the devastation in Florida from Hurricane Irma and is pushing for more relief.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny Facebook wants 'flexibility' in political advertising regs MORE (D-Minn.) also told reporters that there are some concerns with the House FAA bill, but said “we’re working on them at the leadership level.”

“We hope we can get some agreement,” she said.

However, Thune said it’s “unlikely” that the Senate would amend the FAA bill in any way, given the time constraints. Any changes would probably have to come prior to the House floor vote, he said.

But he sounded confident the legislation could pass Congress, even with the hurricane provisions.

“There’s some political maneuvering that’s going on, but when push comes to shove, when you’re talking about people who have been hurt by disaster, I have to believe that eventually we’ll get the votes for that,” Thune said.

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said it wasn’t his call on whether the policy add-ons should be dropped from the FAA extension. But he did acknowledge that there was a push underway to make some last-minute changes.

“Some folks from Louisiana ... Lots of people” want changes, Shuster told reporters Tuesday. “Too many to count.”