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Congress passes six-month federal aviation funding extension

The Senate approved the short-term FAA bill, which was passed in the House of Representatives Monday, just one day before federal aviation funding was set to expire.

   The United States Senate passed a six-month funding extension for the Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday, just one day before the previous bill was set to expire.
   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., passed the federal aviation funding extension, which had already been approved in the House of Representatives, by unanimous consent. The current measure, introduced Friday by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., was approved in the House by voice vote Monday afternoon.
   The House vote followed an earlier effort by the Senate attach an FAA funding extension to an overall government funding bill that failed to pass last week. The Senate’s bill included a similar six-month FAA funding extension, but that section was dropped due to partisan debate over federal funding for women’s health services group Planned Parenthood.
   Funding for the FAA, like the majority of the rest of the federal government, would have lapsed at the end of the day Wednesday without congressional action.
   Legislators argue the six-month reauthorization buys time for Congress to come to terms on a long-term deal, but this likely feels all-too-familiar to those who have followed the legislative battle over federal transportation and infrastructure funding. That issue has seen one short-term extension after another as lawmakers have “kicked the can” down the road rather than come to an agreement over the source of federal highway funds.
   “I would encourage all members to support this six-month extension to give us the time to get our bill on and off the floor and let the Senate work on it so we can truly do something that’s bold, do something that’s transformational, and do something that’ll be very, very positive for aviation,” Shuster said Monday, according to political newspaper The Hill.
   And this wouldn’t be the first time FAA funding was strung along by a series of short-term extensions.
   Back in 2011, Congress passed over 20 temporary stop-gap measures amid budget fights leading up to the expiration of a long-term bill in 2012, eventually causing a partial shutdown of the agency. FAA funding also lapsed briefly in 2013, which resulted in flight delays and furloughs for air traffic controllers.
   “We cannot afford even the thought of a shutdown of the FAA,” added Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.
   The Alliance for Aviation Across America, a non-profit coalition of over 6,300 individuals, businesses, agricultural groups, FBO’s, small airports, elected officials, charitable organizations, and aviation groups, said in a statement following the passage of the six-month funding bill, “We applaud Congress for passing legislation to continuing funding of the FAA through the end of March. This funding will ensure that there is no disruption of critical services to communities and airports across the country.”
   Under the new short-term legislation, FAA funding will expire on March 31, 2016. The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk for his approval.

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