Senate action on aviation bill may not take place until September

Senate action on a must-pass aviation bill may not take place until September – the same month that the measure is facing a deadline – a GOP Chairman said Tuesday.

Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneSenate action on aviation bill may not take place until September Senate votes to begin ObamaCare repeal debate McCain returning to Senate in time for health vote MORE (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told reporters that the timing of a long-term bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will hinge on how the upper chamber tackles other legislative priorities, such as a defense policy bill.

“It depends on next week,” Thune said.  “FAA might get pushed, and if it does, then we’ll deal with it in September.”

But with the House version of the measure likely on a similar timeline, there is growing concern that there won’t be enough time for Congress to negotiate a final product.

Lawmakers are up against the clock, as the FAA’s legal authority expires at the end of September. The Senate may have extra time to deal with the issue, however, since it delayed its August recess by two weeks.

Both the House and Senate FAA bills have yet to be considered on the floor, though they are stalled for different reasons.

The Senate measure includes a controversial amendment from Thune regarding the 1,500-hour pilot training rule, which Democrats have threatened to block on the Senate floor if changes aren’t made.

Thune’s provision would expand the types of training that can count toward a pilot’s training credits, as long as the FAA deems it to be safe. Thune said he introduced the amendment to help address pilot shortages, and stressed the provision would put a greater emphasis on the quality of training hours, instead of just quantity.

But it’s a sensitive subject for some lawmakers, especially for those who had constituents die in the 2009 Colgan Air crash, in which pilot error was to blame. Democrats worry pilots will receive inadequate training under the proposed changes from Thune.

Thune said he has been trying to craft compromise language, but no deal has yet been reached.

“There are discussions that are going on about that, but we don’t have anything agreed upon yet,” he said.

Across the Capitol, the House FAA bill contains a divisive proposal to separate air traffic control from the federal government.

Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) told Fox News that the FAA bill could also slip to September, though he remains committed to passing a long-term measure and avoiding another extension.

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