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Senate out until Tuesday with no FAA deal in sight

There’s new uncertainty this morning about whether the Senate can pass the five-year FAA reauthorization bill before next Friday’s deadline.

The Senate is gone until Tuesday, and official negotiations on a time agreement and amendments are only just beginning. Multiple senators have indicated they won’t consent to fast-tracking the bill if their amendments aren’t considered.

On top of that, the No. 2 Senate Republican suggested a short-term extension of the FAA’s authority might be needed. Even that would require a unanimous consent agreement to pass it in time — and senators could throw up roadblocks to maximize their leverage on potential amendment votes.

“We want to get this done in the quickest, best way possible,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told us. Schumer added that he wants to “avoid” a short-term patch.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who’s managing the FAA bill on the floor for the GOP side, said Thursday that he still believes the Senate can pass the five-year reauthorization next week.

That’s going to take a lot of cooperation. And there are several moving parts here that could derail the effort.

Getting the ball rolling: Shortly after the Senate voted to begin debate on the bill Thursday afternoon, leaders in both parties ran the first hotline for a possible time agreement. This allows senators to request votes on specific amendments.

The hotline, which we obtained, includes an amendment from Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) that would restrict the TSA’s ability to use facial recognition technology. A big bipartisan group is behind this.

But the hotline didn’t include some of the more contentious amendments — and perhaps that was by design since this was the initial offer. In order to secure a time agreement, the deal is likely going to need to include many, if not all, of the following:

An amendment from Maryland and Virginia senators that would scrap a provision adding flight slots at Washington Ronald Reagan National Airport.

An amendment from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) that would codify the Biden administration’s recently announced policy on automatic refunds for canceled or delayed flights. We scooped this Thursday. Democrats complained to their leadership that the negotiated FAA bill text includes a provision that seems to contradict the new policy.

An amendment from Sens. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) that would extend the Affordable Connectivity Program with $7 billion.

The Kids Online Safety Act, which has nearly 70 co-sponsors and is led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

Hawley’s bill to reauthorize a $50 billion compensation program for victims of nuclear radiation.

Sen. Roger Marshall’s (R-Kan.) Credit Card Competition Act. (More on this below.)

On another note: The Senate tried to quickly pass the House’s antisemitism bill on Thursday, but there were objections from both parties.

Schumer said he still wants to try to pass it. But with the FAA deadline looming, it seems unlikely that the Senate will try to pass this measure unless there’s a unanimous consent agreement.

— Andrew Desiderio

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