Senate bill to avoid shutdown extends FAA funding for six months

Senate bill to avoid shutdown extends FAA funding for six months

The Senate's bill to prevent a government shutdown on Oct. 1 would extend federal aviation funding for six months. 

The measure, which was released by Senate appropriators on Tuesday, contains language that would extend the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) funding until March 31, 2016. 

The FAA's previous appropriations measure, which includes funding for air traffic controllers, is set to expire on Sept. 30, along with funding for most federal government functions. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Lawmakers had been expected to try to roll the temporary extension for the FAA into the broader continuing resolution (CR), because Congress punted debate on a long-term surface transportation-funding bill into October before leaving for their August recess.

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 on Oct. 29. 

The FAA has been at the center of budget battles in Washington before. 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. 

House Republicans have pushed to privatize some functions of air traffic control, which has complicated the effort to craft a long-term bill for the agency. The effort has riled unions, who have called for a steady aviation funding stream before changes are made. 

Airlines and airports have also squabbled over a proposal to increase the amount of money passengers can be charged to help pay for facility improvements in the next FAA bill. 

Airport groups in Washington have been pushing Congress to nearly double the cap on the fee that is added to every plane ticket, which is known as the Passenger Facility Charge, from $4.50 to $8.50. 

Airlines have countered that passengers are already charged enough fees by the federal government when they purchase airfare.