Compromise FAA Bill May Be Released Between Tonight and Monday

September 21, 2018 – 2:30 p.m.

Congressional negotiators have been working for several weeks to pre-negotiate a compromise Federal Aviation Administration bill that can pass the House and Senate with large majorities without further amendment, and the end may be in sight.

If all goes well, the House and Senate chairmen (and, possibly, ranking minority members) will make an announcement of a deal today, and text of a House-Senate compromise bill will be posted on sometime between this evening and Monday.

At some time next week, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) would then to to the House floor and move to “supend the rules” and do the following:

  1. Take up an unrelated bill with an H.R. bill number that has since been amended by the Senate and sent back with that amendment.
  2. Substitute the text of the compromise FAA agreement for the Senate amendment, which makes the FAA bill the House amendment to the Senate amendment.
  3. Pass the whole thing and send it back to the Senate with one vote.

This would all be one in a single motion and a single vote, and the whole thing would be limited to no more than 40 minutes debate, but the expedited procedure would require the consent of at least two-thirds of the members voting, which practically speaking gives T&I Democrats under Peter DeFazio (D-OR) veto power over the final product.

Once the House passes the compromise bill, Shuster (or the Ways and Means Committee chairman) may move to suspend the rules and pass a new bill extending Airport and Airway Trust Fund taxes, expenditure authority, and a few other aviation provisions, all of which expire at midnight on Saturday, September 30, for a few days.

The procedure in question is designed to make it easier for the Senate to pass the compromise – if even one of the Senate’s 100 members objects to fast-tracking a bill, it can take quite a long time, and this way (pre-negotiated compromise package as a House amendment to a bill that has already passed the Senate once), the potential debate time is cut in half. (A motion to take up a new bill is debatable and potentially requires a motion to invoke cloture, which takes two full calendar days, but a motion to take up a House amendment does not get debated and is decided immediately.)

But if the House passes the compromise package in the middle of next week, there may not be enough time to muscle the package through the Senate by Saturday night. (Particularly if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues giving Senators five- or six-day weekends. Although whatever happens with the Supreme Court nomination in committee next week may also have a trickle-down effect and slow down whatever is happening on the floor.)

Hence the need for one last short-term extension, the sixth since the last FAA authorization bill expired on October 1, 2015 (see full list here).

The specific timing is in question – the House Majority Leader’s floor protocols require that in order to be considered under suspension of the rules, the final text of a measure has to be available three days in advance. But those aren’t three 24-hour days – in the past, “three-day layover” has been deemed to have been satisfied by releasing the text just before midnight on Day 1, waiting on Day 2, and then taking up the legislation for a vote on the morning of Day 3, which is much closer to 48 hours than 72 hours. But the later the House acts, the more likely it is the Senate won’t be able to act before the end of the week.

As has been reported by Bloomberg, the need for Democratic buy-in in the House (and for 60 Democratic votes in the Senate) likely means that the “F4A” trucking provision preempting California law on intrastate meal and rest breaks for commercial drivers will not be included.

ETW will send out additional information once a deal is announced.

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