September 29 Update:
- The Senate is starting debate on its own extension bill, which extends funding for federal agencies through November 17. The Senate bill also extends Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization through December 31. Not all Senate Republicans are on board and some may try to impose procedural hurdles, but it appears at this time the Senate could pass its bill.
- The House has made no progress on a funding extension for FAA and federal agencies. Speaker McCarthy’s options to avoid a shutdown are dwindling quickly.
- The House is preparing a separate bill to extend FAA’s program authorization through December 31. The language mirrors the Senate’s FAA authorization extension. There are plans to bring the authorization extension to the House floor as a stand-alone bill.
- ACC signed on to an industry letter calling on Congress to pass an extension bill to fund FAA.
Prospects: While a government shutdown appears likely on October 1 as FY 2023 comes to a close, the passage of a stand-alone bill to extend FAA’s authorization through December 31 is critical. This will allow for the continued collection of federal aviation taxes through the remainder of the calendar year. This could also enable staff in the FAA Office of Airports to continue to work during a government shutdown. (ARP is funded through contract authority provided from revenue going into the Aviation and Airways Trust Fund). However, ARP staff activities may be limited with other FAA divisions furloughed.
We still encourage you to reach out to your congressional delegation to encourage them to support passage of an extension bill.
September 26 Alert:
Action Requested: Write to your congressional delegation to express your support for Congress to pass a funding and authorization extension for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), along with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and other agencies that are critical to aviation. Outline the specific potential impacts to your company and client airports from an extended government shutdown, including:
- Project delays due to a lack of FAA staff to review and approve grants.
- Construction planned for the fall being pushed to next year.
- Increased costs from mobilization and inflation.
- Critical approvals of planning and environmental decisions that will further delay design and construction schedules.
- Delays in the aviation system due to staffing levels for air traffic controllers, TSA agents, etc. who will not get paid.
In addition, if an extended government shutdown occurs, be sure to inform ACC of the impacts on projects you are experiencing.
State of Play: Prospects for a shutdown of the federal government on October 1st seem imminent with no agreement amongst the House Republican Caucus on the components of an extension that would pass the Senate or Biden’s approval. ACC President T.J. Schulz and Vice President Sylvia Palmer met yesterday with FAA Associate Administrator for Airports Shannetta Griffin and newly appointed Deputy Associate Administrator Rich Swayze to discuss the shutdown. The Office of Airports is currently assessing and evaluating staffing in the event of a shutdown, and more detailed information will be available.
Come October 1st, the FAA would need an extension of both authorization and appropriations to continue operating into the new fiscal year. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) published a document outlining the plan for shutdown for agencies, including the FAA. If Congress fails to enact legislation to extend the FAA’s authorization and appropriations, the following activities critical to airports will cease:
- All Airport Improvement Program (AIP) activities would cease during a lapse in authorization because AIP activities are funded with contract authority via a time-limited authorization.
- Passenger facility charge approvals.
- Airport planning and environmental services funded by AIP contract authority.
- Capital planning for FAA facilities and equipment.
- Research, Engineering, and Development programs.
- Investment planning and financial analysis.
Activities and personnel funded through Division J of the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) will not be impacted by a shutdown. However, we should assume that the staffing available to review and approve grants under the IIJA will be limited, and they may be only able to operate based on the availability of other ARP staff and FAA division staff that would be involved in reviews and processing.
You can find additional details on the impacts of a shutdown in a recording of the September 18th ACC Washington Update session.
We suggest you work immediately with your local FAA regions and airport sponsors to identify and mitigate the impacts of a government shutdown. Are there any pending decisions or approvals needed in the coming weeks, particularly impacting construction this fall? Are there other decisions by the FAA that could impact a project schedule if there is a shutdown?
Prospects: The situation in Washington is particularly dire given the dynamics surrounding the House of Representatives and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The Speaker is working with a razor-thin majority, and a small group of Freedom Caucus members are seeking substantial concessions in any extension bill that will not fly in the Senate or be approved by President Biden.
McCarthy is in a bind. The House approved rules earlier this year that would let any one member of Congress call for a vote to fire the Speaker and elect a new one. McCarthy likely will not be able to pass an extension in the House that includes the Freedom Caucus provisions. He could try to cut a deal with moderate Republicans and Democrats, but that would surely result in a move to remove him from the Speaker position.
In short, this is larger than a funding extension and is emblematic of the challenges in the House of Representatives given the thin majority margin and differing factions within the parties. Recall that back in January, it took five days and 15 votes to get McCarthy approved for House Speaker. If he is pushed out of being Speaker, it could take days to find a candidate that would garner enough votes to replace him.