Partisan bickering seems to have put the kibosh on FAA funding for the near future. The Senate failed to force a vote on the bill that would reauthorize multibillion-dollar funding for the FAA, which is key to overhauling the aging and overburdened U.S. air traffic control system.
President Bush put a funding overhaul for FAA on the table in 2007 to pay for the new air-traffic control system, which could cost $8 – 10 billion during the next 10 years. The House passed a reauthorization bill last year, but the Senate bill stalled because of debates on how to pay for it.
For weeks, senators were arguing about how the FAA bill will be funded, with Democrats trying to fill it with amendments that were non-aviation related, such as a $1.6 billion allocation for New York City transit projects. Those amendments outraged Republicans, who, in the end, prevented a floor vote. Meanwhile, air traffic congestion continues.
The bill may still have wings, but it’s not likely to fly this year. FAA funding expires June 30 and the Senate would have to pass a bill that would be reconciled with the House’s FAA legislation and then Congress would have to send President Bush something he would sign. It’s more likely that Congress will extend the FAA’s current funding until a new plan can be drawn up, and agreed upon, next year.