With the days before Congress’ summer vacation rapidly dwindling, the FAA funding conundrum continued last month. In late June, Congress bought itself three more months when it extended the agency’s current funding and programs until September 30. Lawmakers now have extended aviation funding and taxes five times since they initially expired on Sept. 30, 2007.
Presidency of George W. Bush
Both the House and the Senate passed their own versions of an FAA reauthorization bill last month, so differences between the two measures–and the threat of Presidential veto–must be resolved by a House/ Senate conference committee before Congress casts its final vote.
Congress took most of the month of January off, and when it returned to the business of the nation, the Enron bankruptcy captured its attention. A multitude of congressional committees undertook to explore the whys and wherefores of the collapse. The Democrats sought ties between Enron, President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Unlike a lot of political appointees, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta came into the Bush Administration well versed in transportation issues–particularly aviation. His bona fides included time on Capitol Hill as a congressman, a stint with Lockheed Martin and, on a more parochial level, a term as mayor of San Jose, Calif.
In an interim report issued in late March, the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry urged President Bush and Congress to form a “high level” working group to deal with the long-term ATC needs of the country. At the same time, the group also wants funding to be maintained in fiscal years 2003 and 2004 for FAA and NASA projects to improve the ATC system.
When Congress returned from its August recess, both houses set about to debate what to do about the declining budget surplus and what to do about spending.
Early last month President Bush departed for a month-long hiatus in Texas and just about the same time Congress opted to take its August recess. So, the dog days of August descended on a more or less deserted legislative Washington.
After serving less than a year as chairman of the NTSB, Marion Blakey last month became the 15th Administrator of the FAA. She succeeds Jane Garvey, who was the first woman to head the agency and the first to be appointed to a congressionally mandated five-year term.
Supporters of federal government reparations for general aviation small businesses have vowed to continue their fight to compensate those companies victimized by the events of last September.
Back in the 1700s the poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley an’ lea’ us naught but grief an’ pain for promis’d joy!” The 108th Congress “scheme” (plan) to have appropriations bills for the 13 government agencies wrapped up and signed off by October 1, the start of the new fiscal year, went “gang aft agley” (went awry), for only three of the 13 bills made it through the process.