Senate overwhelmingly passes FAA reauthorization, sending bill to House

The Senate passed a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday, putting pressure on the House to also pass the measure before the Friday at midnight deadline. 

The Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act passed the upper chamber by a vote of 88 to 4, despite pushback from Virginia and Maryland lawmakers on additional flights added to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., stressed the importance of getting the reauthorization past both chambers and signed before its expiration on Friday, May 10. 

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Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer

Sens. Mitch McConnell, left, and Chuck Schumer. (Getty Images)

“If we let funding for the FAA lapse, it could be disastrous for the safety of our skies and the efficiency of our airports,” he warned his colleagues on Wednesday. 

While the re-authorization passed the Senate, it still needs to be voted on by the House before heading to President Biden. However, the House has already adjourned for the week. 

Before leaving, lawmakers in the lower chamber passed a one-week extension to the FAA, giving them time to consider its re-authorization when they return next week. 

After passing the FAA bill, the Senate approved the House’s week-long stopgap measure to extend the FAA by unanimous consent.

The FAA re-authorization appeared to have the widespread support of senators on a key procedural vote last week, with only 10 lawmakers opposing cloture for the bill. 89 voted in favor of limiting debate on the motion to proceed, far more than the necessary 60. 

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Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., stressed the importance of getting the reauthorization past both chambers and signed before its expiration on May 10.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

However, those who aren’t happy with the bill don’t appear likely to be swayed, and the opposition of even a small number of lawmakers in th upper chamber can prove to be a significant obstacle, particularly if they are working on an encroaching deadline. 

Those who voted against their colleagues on the first procedural hurdle included senators from Virginia and Maryland, who reiterated concerns over added flights to the Washington airport and sought to have an amendment remove them.

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Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen specifically introduced an amendment to “block additional flights in and out of DCA from this year’s FAA Reauthorization Act because passenger safety should be the number one priority when it comes to legislation impacting our airports.”

Others appeared to also be holding out for votes on various amendments they hoped to have included. 

Federal Aviation Administration Sign

The Senate passed a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

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One concern for Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s acceptance of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) app as valid identification for illegal immigrants. He offered as an amendment to the FAA bill his previously introduced VALID Act, which would specifically prevent use of the app as an ID for migrants. 

Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, in particular, wanted to see the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides subsidized high-speed internet to low-income families, extended as a part of the FAA’s five-year extension. 

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Additionally, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., had continued his push to have his bill that would compensate nuclear radiation victims added to the measure, which he had lobbied to have considered in various major pieces of legislation. The bill passed the Senate but hasn’t been taken up in the lower chamber. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, remarked last week that the bill would be “a bicameral and a bipartisan accomplishment. It is the culmination of many months of work between us and our staffs and is reflective of the priorities of a great many Senators.”

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