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House approves extension of FAA law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House approved an extension of the Federal Aviation Administration authorization law today after it became clear that the Senate would not be able to pass a long-term reauthorization before the law expires at the end of this month.

Although the measure passed on a voice vote, Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., who chairs the House Transportation Committee, expressed dissatisfaction with the extension, which continues FAA operations under the existing law through Dec. 31.

The House, Oberstar said, is waiting on the Senate to pass a new law that would allow for critical upgrades in the U.S. aviation system. Although the House passed a complete reauthorization bill in May, the Senate has not been able to move a bill to the floor due to a jam-packed schedule and procedural hang-ups.

With current law set to expire in just a week, Congress is now forced to pass an extension, said Oberstar.

“Goodness,” Oberstar said Wednesday from the House floor. “A billion people traveled by air worldwide last year. Seven hundred fifty million of those traveled in the U.S airspace. We have a responsibility to improve the speed with which air traffic controllers and the accuracy with which they communicate with aircraft and move aircraft in this vast airspace of ours.

“But, regrettably, the other body has not acted on that legislation,” Oberstar said. “We therefore are required to come to the floor with a bill to extend and keep in place existing programs. And that is really unfortunate that we have to do it this way.”

Rep. John Mica of Florida, who is the top Republican on the House Transportation Committee, also had little sympathy for the Senate.

 “This delay is unprecedented,” Mica said Wednesday from the House floor. “The other body has yet to act on this important matter and [has] left us in limbo.”

The extension would also likely delay passage of the Passenger Bill of Rights, which seeks to limit the amount of time that airlines can keep passengers on planes that are stuck on the tarmac.

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