Senate sends FAA reauthorization to House

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday, kicking the measure over to the House, where similar efforts have stalled.

In a 95-3 vote, lawmakers approved an amended bill that would greenlight FAA programs through fiscal 2017. The agency’s current legal authority expires on July 15.

{mosads}The chamber was unable to adopt a final package of over two dozen amendments just prior to the vote because of a lone objection from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), according to a Senate aide. Senators spent two weeks debating the measure and added over 19 amendments on the floor and 57 in committee.

Senate leaders ultimately decided to drop renewable energy tax breaks from the bill, which Democrats had said were unintentionally left out of last year’s package of tax extensions, but that drew the ire of conservative groups.

“To get to this point has been no small task,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The bill would address drone safety and privacy issues, with Nelson highlighting a provision that would establish a pilot program to test and develop technologies to intercept or shut down drones if they get too close to airports.

A drone reportedly struck a British Airways plane near London’s Heathrow Airport over the weekend. The plane landed safely, but the incident stoked public fear about drones flying near planes.

“Remember what happened when two seagulls were sucked into the engines of a flight called the Hudson River miracle,” Nelson said. “That’s feathers and webbed feet and a beak. Can you imagine the metal and plastic of a drone being sucked into a jet engine?”

The FAA legislation also would beef up airport security, increase authorized funding for the Airport Improvement Program and establish new consumer protections, such as requiring airlines to offer refunds for lost or delayed bags and standardizing the way airline companies disclose fees.

Now all eyes turn to the House, where a six-year reauthorization of the FAA was advanced out of committee but has stalled largely due to a contentious proposal to separate the nation’s air traffic control system from the FAA.

Bill sponsors hope Tuesday’s strong vote increases pressure across the Capitol to swiftly advance the Senate’s version.

“In a complicated bill like this, it doesn’t contain everything that everybody wants. But we hope our counterparts in the House will take up and pass this bill without delay,” Nelson said, who warned against adding the air traffic control proposal. “We’ve given them a good, bipartisan blueprint.”

But Shuster is apparently not backing down.

“I appreciate the work of the Senate and Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) in moving an FAA bill,” he said in a statement. “We will take a look at the completed product, but in the House, we will continue to push forward with the AIRR Act.”

Tags Bill Nelson John Thune Rand Paul

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