House tees up do-over vote on FAA bill with hurricane provisions

House tees up do-over vote on FAA bill with hurricane provisions
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House lawmakers teed up a short-term aviation package for a do-over vote later this week, after Democrats blocked the bill from passing under a fast-track procedure on Monday.

The House Rules Committee agreed on Tuesday to send a six-month reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to the floor under a closed process that does not permit any amendments.

The underlying package includes additional provisions to encourage private flood insurance markets, provide tax relief for hurricane victims and extend several expiring public health care programs.

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The Rules panel also attached language to the measure that would ensure that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are reimbursed for any costs associated with the tax relief provisions.

A floor vote on the FAA bill is likely to take place Thursday, and the bill is expected to pass, though its path forward in the Senate is less clear.

The extension is needed to keep the FAA running past Sept. 30, when the agency’s current legal authority expires.

Lawmakers ended up proposing a short-term patch after they were unable to agree on a longer reauthorization, because House transportation leaders wanted to include a controversial plan to separate air traffic control from the federal government.

House Democrats blocked the short-term bill 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.  

But a spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) applauded the Rules Committee on Tuesday for including an amendment to expand the impacts of the hurricane tax relief provisions in the bill.

"Before this amendment, the bill did virtually nothing to help Puerto Rico and [the Virgin Islands]," the spokesman said. "The amendment allows for these territories to be treated [the] same as the states impacted by [Hurricanes] Irma, Harvey and Maria, but the tax package itself is still not as robust as it should be and still does not treat all disasters even on the mainland equally."

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said Tuesday that he wasn’t opposed to the tax provisions, but wanted to see more relief for hurricane-battered regions included in the package.

“I’m a little underwhelmed,” he said. “I thought this was going to be a bigger relief package.”

And ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said she wanted the bill to also extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which also expires Saturday.

Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) assured Democrats that they would not let the CHIP fail. He also stressed that there would be dire consequences if Congress let the FAA shut down, especially in areas that are still struggling to recover from hurricane damage.

“It’s critical to ensure radar systems in Puerto Rico, among others, continue to function on the island while the planes are bringing emergency supplies,” Sessions said. “If we do not pass this, those emergency and critical programs would be in trouble on the islands.”