Senate passes Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill ahead of key deadline

The Senate voted on Thursday to pass a major federal aviation bill ahead of a key Friday deadline.

The bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill would renew authority for the agency for the next five years and aims to improve aviation safety, enhance protections for passengers and airline workers and invest in airport and air travel infrastructure nationwide.

The House will next need to pass the legislation.

The bill would authorize more than $105 billion in funding for the FAA as well as $738 million for the National Transportation Safety Board for fiscal years 2024 through 2028.

Among a wide range of provisions, the legislation seeks to address the nation’s shortage of air traffic controllers with directives aimed at expanding hiring, includes strengthened consumer protections for refunds for flight cancellations and delays, and would implement technology to reduce the risk of runway collisions.

Although there is broad bipartisan support for the legislation, the package touched off contentious debate over some of its provisions.

One flashpoint centered around flights at Reagan National Airport just outside of Washington, DC – with a group of Washington area Senate Democrats who oppose adding more longer-distance flights in and out pressing for an amendment vote to strip it out of the package. Ultimately, however, there were no votes on amendments.

Some lawmakers argue that adding flights will give consumers more choices and bring down prices, while others say it would increase congestion and delays at the airport.

The House voted on Wednesday to pass a one-week extension for federal aviation programs, a stopgap move intended to head off a looming end-of-week deadline. Congress is up against a Friday deadline to reauthorize FAA authorities. This will move that deadline to next Friday, May 17. The Senate passed that weeklong extension via unanimous consent on Thursday night, giving the House until next week to send the package to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

This story and headline have been updated to reflect additional developments.

CNN’s Greg Wallace contributed to this report.

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