The House on Tuesday passed a compromise measure that would fund the Federal Aviation Administration and federal highway programs for the next several months.
The bill, H.R. 2887, was passed by voice vote Tuesday afternoon. It now moves to the Senate, which must approve the measure this week to prevent the FAA from facing a partial shutdown as it did in August when a stalemate between party leaders delayed passage of a stopgap funding extension.
Under the measure that passed the House Tuesday, FAA funding would be extended through the end of January while ground transportation funding – which is set to expire at the end of the month – would be renewed through the end of March.
The quick (and unanimous) passage of the short-term reauthorization stood in stark contrast to the bitter partisan fight that played out in early August over the FAA bill. At that time, Senate and House Democratic leaders blamed the impasse on Republicans; GOP leaders maintained that Democrats were at fault. At issue were provisions on funding a rural air service program as well as a broader dispute over collective bargaining rights.
Meanwhile, the agency endured a costly partial shutdown that – along with the brinksmanship that accompanied the debt-ceiling fight – did little to improve the public’s opinion of Congress, as reflected in recent polls.
This time around, a compromise was reached behind closed doors – and with no public grandstanding. Asked Tuesday about the process by which leaders came to agree to an agreement on the measure, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to say.
“Well, you can’t on the one hand accuse us of being partisan and then when we work out our disagreements and go forward together then be critical of the process that brought it together,” McConnell said at a Capitol news conference. “Regardless of how we got to where we are, it looks like we’re going to be able to do an FAA extension and a highway extension on a bipartisan and relatively non-controversial way.”
Pressed several times for details, McConnell responded: “No, I know you do [want to know] and I don’t want to tell you.”
Even so, the partisan finger-pointing continued Tuesday afternoon. In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused Republicans of holding up a long-term reauthorization of both bills.
“Democrats have repeatedly called on Republicans to fully and responsibly fund the highway and FAA bills, creating jobs rebuilding America’s roads and airports,” Pelosi said. “Today, House Republicans agreed to temporarily fund these critical initiatives, but Americans are demanding more than temporary solutions to our jobs crisis. That’s why we’re calling on Republicans to work with Democrats to approve long-term reauthorizations of both measures.