Congress Clears 6-Month Aviation Extension After Dropping Flood Insurance Provision

September 28, 2017 – 4:02 p.m.

Both chambers of Congress today passed legislation providing for a 6-month extension of Federal Aviation Administration funding authorities and of Airport and Airway Trust Fund spending authority and excise taxes. This clears the measure for the President’s signature prior to the expiration of the fiscal year on September 30 and should prevent a partial shutdown of the FAA starting on Monday.

This also buys Congress another six months to deal with FAA reauthorization legislation. The long-delayed House bill (H.R. 2997), which contains an ambitious proposal to split up the FAA and turn air traffic control over to a non-profit, non-governmental corporation, may finally hit the House floor the week of October 10. The Senate bill (S. 1405) is still hung up over a dispute over the minimum number and type of training hours needed to serve as an airline copilot (and the general lack of Senate floor time).

The measure also contains other provisions (principally $5.6 billion in targeted tax relief for hurricane victims), but a title allowing private flood insurance to compete with the federal flood insurance programs was killed by the Senate after objections by Senators from Louisiana and Florida.

The House passed H.R. 3823 (bill text here and section-by-section summary here) by a roll call vote of 264 yeas to 155 nays at 11:25 a.m. 221 Republicans and 43 Democrats voted in favor of the bill on final passage, while 148 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted “no.” This was 17 more Democratic “yes” votes than in the unsuccessful test vote earlier this week, which failed under an expedited procedure that required a two-thirds vote for passage.

Two hours later, at 1:26 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) got unanimous consent for the Senate to take up H.R. 3223, amend it with a Cassidy (R-LA) amendment striking the flood insurance title from the bill (title IV), and send the amended bill back to the House.

The House then returned from a recess and agreed to the Senate amendment at 4:01 p.m., clearing the legislation for transmission to the White House for signature.

The final debate on the bill, held the night before the vote, scarcely referred to aviation at all. (In the House, 40 minutes of debate time was controlled by the Ways and Means Committee on the hurricane relief tax title and the other 20 minutes by the Financial Services Committee on the flood administration title.) There was a brief mention of aviation from Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and ranking member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) on pages H7561-7562 of the transcript.

Just before the House vote on passage, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) offered an amendment to the bill in the form of a motion to recommit with instructions, which would have added almost three dozen additional Internal Revenue Code provisions for disaster relief aid, including disaster infrastructure bonds and other forms of infrastructure assistance. The motion was defeated by the usual party-line vote of 188 yeas, 227 nays.

The White House had earlier issued a Statement of Administration Policy in support of H.R. 3823 and indicating that the President will sign the bill into law.

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