Senators urge House to move on aviation security bill

WASHINGTON The top members of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee have urged their counterparts in the House of Representatives to move forward on Senate legislation to boost aviation security and authorize the programs of the Federal Aviation Administration.

In a May 24 letter released on Wednesday, the senate panel’s Republican chairman, John Thune of South Dakota, and its top Democrat, Bill Nelson of Florida, cautioned House lawmakers that Congress has only six weeks left to approve legislation before a temporary FAA funding patch expires in mid-July.

The letter, addressed to House Transportation Chairman Bill Schuster of Pennsylvania and that panel’s top Democrat, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, urged movement on a Senate bill that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support last month.

“We believe that this legislation represents a model for House action, which is essential to avoiding another round of funding extensions that will be disruptive to the aviation industry and only delay much-needed reforms,” Thune and Nelson said.

House lawmakers have not taken up the Senate bill but have focused instead on their own multi-year measure that stalled due to disagreement over a controversial plan to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system.

Aides to Shuster were not available for comment.

But DeFazio said he agreed with the senators about the need to move forward.

“We could pass comprehensive legislation with broad bipartisan support today if the Republicans drop their divisive scheme to privatize air traffic control,” the Oregon Democrat said in a statement issued by his office.

Thune and Nelson described the Senate bill as “the only viable opportunity this year” to deliver comprehensive legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature. They added that the House privatization measure would face hurdles in the Senate even if the House reached agreement.

“We understand the commitment to this (privatization) proposal, but the Senate is far from reaching a consensus on this issue,” the senators said.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by David Gregorio and Alan Crosby)

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