In what amounts to speed-of-light lawmaking, on April 26 the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider—and likely pass—a bill passed by the U.S. Senate late yesterday that would avert air traffic controller furloughs by the .
The bill—S.853, the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013—would allow U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to reallocate funds to prevent furloughs of essential employees at the FAA, including controllers. According to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a major sponsor of the bill, it would give the secretary authority to transfer up to $253 million by allowing a one-time allocation of unused funds in the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP).
“To be clear,” Collins said on the Senate floor late April 25, “this is the discretionary portion of the program and in no way affects the entitlement funds airports are guaranteed to receive. The program has sufficient funding to support this effort.
“Historically, AIP carryover balances range between $400-450 million and have not been below $300 million in the last decade. In fact, last year there was approximately $700 million of these carryover balances,” she said.
Collins added, “This bill should be recognized as a one-time solution in order to avert the serious national impacts that have resulted from the decisions made by the FAA.”
Senators passed the bill by unanimous consent, meaning there was no opposition significant enough to force a formal vote, much less stop its passage. If the House passes it today before House and Senate members leave Washington for a week, the bill could go to the president for signature immediately.