Peter A DeFazio

FAA Authorization Still Grounded in Senate
Congress could be looking at sixth straight extension as Sept. 30 deadline approaches

Los Angeles International Airport in March. Congress could be headed toward its sixth straight extension of FAA authorization if it fails to meet a Sept. 30 deadline. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration in June of last year. But the measure’s proponents have struggled ever since to get it to the floor, even as another deadline approaches at the end of this month.

Congress could be headed toward its sixth straight extension of FAA authorization if both chambers can’t pass a yet-unfinished conference bill before Sept. 30. House leaders on the issue, who steered easy passage of their measure earlier this year, have blamed the other chamber, which hasn’t passed its own bill.

Key Players in FAA Conference Negotiations
Committee leaders come with their own priorities for FAA reauthorization

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., left, and ranking member Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., both want to do a long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the Sept. 30 deadline to renew Federal Aviation Administration programs approaches, members of both parties are working to reach a deal on a consensus bill that could be acceptable to both chambers.

The process has been slowed because the Senate did not pass its committee-approved bill. Negotiators in an informal conference committee don’t know how many of up to 90 amendments offered to the Senate measure could be in play or whether any senator will object to a final bill that doesn’t include his or her priorities.

Senators Get Informal as FAA Deadline Nears
Reauthorization didn’t make the summer cut. Now senators are looking for a pre-conference shortcut

Sen. John Thune says negotiating with the House before Senate passage is the best option to avoid a lapse of authorization Sept. 30, even if process questions remain. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Staff members on both sides of the Capitol are trying to work around obstacles in the Senate by negotiating “pre-conference” versions of Federal Aviation Administration authorization and water infrastructure bills, according to lawmakers.

Despite the stated goals of the bills’ sponsors, the Senate did not consider either the FAA or water infrastructure measure over the summer, preventing a true conference committee from hashing out differences with the House-passed versions of the FAA and water infrastructure bills.

CBO: Harbor Tax Provision in House Water Bill Widens Deficit
Change could increase on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion over a 10-year period

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., included a provision in the water infrastructure bill that would allow spending directly from the fund without approval by appropriators. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A contested provision that could be in the water infrastructure bill scheduled for House floor debate this week would increase on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion over a 10-year period, the Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday.

The provision in the water resources development bill as it was introduced would allow for spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund without appropriations starting in fiscal 2029 and would increase direct spending by more than $2.5 billion and on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion in at least one 10-year window following its effect date in 2029, the CBO said.

With a Taste of Regular Order on FAA Bill, Members Want More
Rank and file not optimistic that rule allowing 116 amendments will be used on future bills

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., left, and ranking member Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., will lead House debate on a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill with 116 amendments. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In the modern Congress, it’s almost unheard of for the House to vote on 100-plus amendments to a bill, as the chamber will do Thursday and Friday during debate on a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Rank-and-file members had little explanation for the sudden procedural openness, although some speculated it was related to the bipartisan nature of the FAA measure and the availability of floor time given the slim election-year legislative agenda.

FAA Authorization Headed for House Floor Vote Next Week
Changes to Federal Emergency Management Administration policy also being considered

The House is voting next week on a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

The House will vote next week on a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and change disaster relief policy to focus more on mitigation than recovery.

In a statement Wednesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster said the House would vote on an aviation bill that would reauthorize the FAA through fiscal 2023 as well as include provisions of a bill previously passed by the House that makes changes to Federal Emergency Management Administration policy.

GAO: Pruitt’s Pricey Privacy Booth Violated Federal Law
Monday report states funds were not legally available

A staffer exits the Senate subway on April 11 with a poster detailing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s ethics issues. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The EPA violated federal law when it paid more than $43,000 to install a soundproof privacy booth for Administrator Scott Pruitt without first notifying congressional appropriators, the Government Accountability Office said.

The agency violated the law by using more than $5,000 of fiscal 2017 appropriated funds for an unintended purpose without giving lawmakers advance notice, GAO investigators wrote in a report released Monday.

Big Plans for Infrastructure Fade to Business as Usual
As lawmakers return from recess, their infrastructure agenda looks a lot like any other year’s

While President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul D. Ryan seem to be on the same page when they talk about breaking up an infrastructure overhaul into several bills, many of those smaller measures would have happened anyway. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers returning from a two-week recess Monday may find that the debate over infrastructure looks a lot like routine congressional discussion of transportation bills.

Congress will go to work on aviation reauthorization and waterway and port projects, setting aside a comprehensive infrastructure plan favored by the administration for more discussions.

Ryan’s Piecemeal Approach May Keep GOP Infrastructure Push Afloat
But speaker’s strategy of multiple bills could complicate Senate passage

Speaker Paul D. Ryan wants to break an infrastructure overhaul into pieces, moving five to six bills before the August recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A key piece of the Republicans’ 2018 legislative agenda is shape-shifting.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s pronouncement last week that an infrastructure overhaul will be tackled in multiple bills serves a dual purpose: It keeps hope for one of the president’s top policy priorities alive, while setting more realistic expectations for what will get done this midterm election year.

Chao Goes Off the Rails on New York-New Jersey Project

Secretary of Transportation nominee Elaine Chao testifies as her husband Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., looks on during her Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing on Jan. 11. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao came to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to answer questions about the administration’s infrastructure proposal Tuesday. But she spent much of the time confirming and defending the administration’s attempt to kill a New York and New Jersey rail program.

“Is the president of the United States personally intervening with the speaker to kill this project?” asked Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., referring to a weekend report in The Washington Post that President Donald Trump asked Speaker Paul D. Ryan to kill funding for the Gateway Program.