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The Maryland and Virginia Senate delegations still aren’t happy about the plan to increase flights at Ronald Reagan National Airport.

Senate eyes using FAA bill to jam House on unrelated legislation

News: Senate and House negotiators released the long-awaited FAA reauthorization bill just after midnight with the first procedural vote expected in the Senate on Wednesday.

This will kick off a mad scramble as senators plot ways to use the bill to jam the House on long-stalled bipartisan measures that are unrelated to the FAA bill itself.

You can read the bill text here. The section-by-section breakdown is here.

But first, perhaps the biggest news to come out of the agreement is that negotiators sided with the Senate Commerce Committee’s bid to increase the number of flight slots at Washington Reagan National Airport. The full House rejected this idea last year.

The negotiated text requires the Department of Transportation to grant 10 additional slots at DCA, or five round-trip flights. This is sure to enrage the DMV-area lawmakers, who are strongly opposed to the expansion.

The FAA bill is one of Congress’ final must-pass agenda items before the election. So this is a chance to hitch a ride onto one of the last trains out of the station, so to speak. And senators will have some leverage here.

How it could work: Under the current timeline, the Senate likely won’t be able to finish the FAA reauthorization before the May 10 deadline unless all 100 senators come to a time agreement. That’s in part because the Senate is expected to substitute for the House text with the deal that was released overnight. That means more steps in the floor process.

In order to pass the bill on time, Senate leaders will likely need to allow votes on amendments. This is a chance for senators to use the FAA bill as a “Christmas tree” vehicle. It’s also likely that senators will demand votes on amendments related to the actual FAA bill — like the DCA slot proposal.

The House would then need to pass the negotiated FAA package. That could mean forcing House GOP leaders to accept bipartisan Senate bills that wouldn’t have otherwise been taken up there.

Here are some changes to the bill that could be in play.

DCA expansion: The DMV-area delegation has long fought against an expansion, pointing to recent FAA data showing that the airport is already overburdened. The local lawmakers say adding flights would make delays at DCA even worse and jeopardize passenger safety. United Airlines is opposed. Delta Air Lines has been strongly in favor of the expansion.

This is one of those unusual Capitol Hill fights that doesn’t fall along party lines. And you can bet that Maryland’s and Virginia’s senators will be pushing to scrap the DCA provision from the FAA bill.

Kids’ online safety: Congress took a whack at Big Tech with the passage of the TikTok forced-divestiture bill. And as we told you on Friday, there could be more Big Tech crackdowns coming.

The easiest to clear would be the Kids’ Online Safety Act, which has more than 60 co-sponsors and could therefore overcome a filibuster. The bill has long been a priority for Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), so they could seek to use the FAA bill as the vehicle to get it done. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is also a cosponsor.

It would create new rules for tech companies aimed at shielding children from potentially addictive or otherwise damaging content. Opponents say the bill could be abused by state-level officials to censor certain online content.

Radiation compensation: A government program for victims of nuclear contamination is set to expire soon. The Senate passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act by a vote of 69-30 last month, but the House hasn’t taken it up. Attaching it to the FAA bill could be the best shot at getting it signed into law.

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) have been leading the charge on this. But it’s been an uphill battle in part because the issue divides Republicans, and because Speaker Mike Johnson has yet to make a decision on how to handle it. There’s also a $50 billion price tag to consider.

— Andrew Desiderio

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