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Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act Delayed Amid ATC Reform Opposition

Legislative Activity

AIRR Act Delayed Amid ATC Reform Opposition

The House is unlikely to consider the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act on the floor this week amid opposition from Democrats, Republican appropriators, and some Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee. The AIRR Act would reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs and reform the air traffic control (ATC) system by removing it from the FAA and placing it into a federally-chartered non-profit corporation. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) had originally planned to bring the bill to the floor this week, allowing the House to pass the AIRR Act and send it to the Senate before the end of February.

The Republican opposition is mostly to the ATC reform provisions, which would reduce the Congressional oversight role by taking the ATC system outside of the FAA, insulating it from the federal appropriations process, and removing some of the House Ways and Means Committee’s taxing authorities. Congressional Democrats also oppose the bill, and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio’s (D-OR) amendment, which would have removed ATC funding from the appropriations process but left ATC within the federal government, failed during the Committee’s markup of the bill on February 11.

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) has said he wants to wait for the House to act on an FAA Reauthorization bill before the Senate begins to work on their reauthorization. The current FAA authorization expires on March 31, and Congress will likely need to pass a short-term extension to provide time to pass a long-term bill.

This Week’s Hearings:      

  • Tuesday, February 23: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Passenger Rail: Opportunities and Challenges for the National Network.”

  • Wednesday, February 24: The House Appropriations Committee Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “The Department of Transportation Budget.”

  • Friday, February 26: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Transportation and Public Assets Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Oversight of Federal Vehicles.”

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About this Author

Timothy W. Drake Lawyer Squire Patton Boggs DC

Timothy Drake represents municipal governments, transportation agencies, private sector companies, universities and nonprofit organizations on a range of legislative and regulatory matters related to transportation and infrastructure, economic development, energy and education. Timothy assists clients in the development and implementation of comprehensive strategic plans, identifies federal funding opportunities, and provides guidance on the potential impacts of major reauthorizations and other federal policies.

He also advises and supports...

Patricia Doersch Attorney Squire Patton Boggs
Of Counsel

Patricia Doersch is a member of the firm’s Transportation, Infrastructure & Local Government Public Policy Practice. She assists transportation agencies, corporations and municipal governments in achieving their goals before the federal government, with a focus on assisting automotive industry clients address federal regulatory requirements and compliance matters.

Immediately prior to joining Squire Patton Boggs, Patricia served as Legislative Counsel for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), advocating on behalf of 1,500 transit providers and private suppliers on Capitol Hill and at federal agencies on issues from transportation funding, finance and tax policy to wide-ranging federal grant requirements such as Buy America.

Patricia brings a wealth of experience shaping transportation policy and legislation within the federal government. She served as Majority Counsel for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Highways and Transit Subcommittee, advancing congressional priorities on highway funding, environmental streamlining and motor carrier safety. There, she crafted the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act, which created the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and substantially increased funding for truck and bus safety enforcement, research and crash prevention.

While an attorney with the Federal Highway Administration, Patricia was the principal drafter of the Administration’s bill reauthorizing the US$40 billion annual federal-aid highway program.


  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – On behalf of the NHTSA, conducting a multi-year monitorship of an automaker’s compliance with federal motor vehicle safety laws and regulations, including obligations to promptly remedy defective vehicles and to establish a corporate culture of proactive vehicle safety.
  • Regional Transportation District – Worked to defeat House legislation that banned the use of flexible STP highway funds for transit capital projects, thereby ensuring client’s locally championed rail project could proceed on schedule under locally supported finance plan.
  • American Water Works Association – Helped champion an improvement to a newly adopted loan program for water infrastructure projects that would enable utilities to co-finance projects with tax-exempt debt, greatly expanding the cost effectiveness and utility of the loan program to address the backlog of investment needs nationwide.