It appears that the FAA Reauthorization effort will take an unusual detour in the Senate this week.  As readers are no doubt aware, the FAA will lose its legal authority to operate on Sunday unless the 5-year reauthorization is passed.  In addition, the entire federal government will have to shut down on Sunday unless a massive spending bill is passed or the House and Senate pass a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government. 

The House of Representatives passed its version of the FAA Reauthorization, also known as the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act (H.R. 3935), at the end of July.  The Senate’s version of the reauthorization, however, failed to make any progress due to a dispute over the so-called “1,500-hour rule” for pilots, and has not even gotten out of committee yet. 

Based on this, it was something of a surprise to see the Senate place the House’s FAA Reauthorization Bill, H.R. 3935, on the calendar for a vote tonight.  Does this mean that the Senate is giving up on its version of the reauthorization and is merely going to enact the House version?  The answer to this question is “no.” 

The Senate wants to send a continuing resolution to the House to fund the government, but the Constitution requires that spending legislation must originate in the House.  Since the House already passed H.R. 3935, the Senate is likely going to strip out all of the language of the bill and replace it with entirely new language that temporarily funds the government and simply extends the FAA’s legal authority to operate while the Senate continues to argue over what should be in its FAA Reauthorization bill. 

The Senate will start this process tonight, with a procedural vote on H.R. 3935 sometime after 5:30 PM.  After that, the scope of the Senate’s efforts will become clearer, and we will know if the Senate intends a “clean” continuing resolution or whether it will include hotly contested items, such as the additional $24 billion for Ukraine. 

So, the good news is the Senate is going to vote on H.R. 3935.  The bad news is, we are no closer to an actual 5-year reauthorization for the FAA than we were in July.  Regardless of when the real Act finally passes, we will bring you a free 90-minute webinar analyzing what it means for the aviation industry, so stay tuned!