More Gridlock in the FAA Budget Process

By Bill Deere, NATA Senior Vice President for Government and External Affairs

Congress will shortly adjourn for its annual summer recess and return after Labor Day for a short session before adjourning again in advance of the November general elections.  As a result, it is likely that commencing October 1st the FAA will once again be forced to operate — for at least some period of time — through another stop-gap funding bill.  How did this come to pass?

It wasn’t supposed to. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, the agreement that ended the government shutdown, was supposed to pave the way for the first regular appropriations to fund the government since FY2010.  By establishing the overall discretionary budget ceiling for FY2015, the legislation was intended to provide for at least one year of relative budget peace.

At first that’s what we saw, a return, for at least one year, of regular order in the federal budget process.  As we reported to you in May and June, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees held their budget review hearings and developed the annual spending bills, including the one that funds the FAA.  You may recall there was a lot in those bills about which to be excited.  Both the House and Senate versions provided overall FAA spending levels above the Administration request, funded contract towers, included prohibitions against the development of new user fees, and provided guidance to the agency on important issues including streamlining the certification process and improving the consistency of regulatory interpretation.

While the appropriations process moved along in the House of Representatives, the process has hit a wall in the United States Senate.  Spending bills have been reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee with bipartisan support.  However the battle for control of the Senate has devolved into a fight over amendments to be made in order during floor consideration of legislation.  The result, only critical “must pass” legislation to fix the problems at the Veterans Administration and prevent a cessation of highway funding are considered, in other words — more gridlock.

Where do we go from here? After November’s general election Congress is expected to return for a “lame duck” session.  We can only hope that post-election the Senate will be able to take up these bills so general aviation does not lose the benefits of the funding and guidance contained in these FAA spending bills.

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