Members of the Senate and the House returned to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday after their August recess, to face an imminent deadline to deal with funding the FAA. The current FAA funding bill expires on Sept. 30. Industry advocates are hoping there won’t be a series of temporary extensions and shutdowns like in 2011, when the last funding bill was up for approval. The aviation bill may be put on hold at least temporarily, however. “The [highway] bill seems to be sucking all of the oxygen out of the room and that could mean more delays for aviation,” Erik Hansen, a spokesman for the U.S. Travel Association, told The Hill. “There’s a packed floor schedule [for the fall], and getting a bill through committees and both chambers and through a conference could be difficult.”
Also in the mix is a proposal from Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Penn., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to separate the air traffic control system from the FAA and create an independent corporation, funded by user fees, to oversee it. Aviation advocates have lobbied against this plan, saying the current fuel-tax system fairly and equitably pays for the system. Hopes are dim among most analysts that a new FAA bill will be passed by the deadline. Congress is scheduled to meet only 12 days in September, and the agenda is over-booked with contentious issues, including the highway bill, immigration, cyber-security and the Iran nuclear agreement.