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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed for the reauthorization of the FAA to include cannabis banking reform and a measure regulating stablecoins.

Senate FAA talks stalling out with Friday deadline looming

Senate leaders are getting increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of passing the five-year FAA reauthorization bill by the end of the week, with intra-party spats and ongoing demands for amendment votes standing in the way of a time agreement.

It could lead Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to proceed with yet another extension of the FAA’s existing authority to prevent a lapse on Friday at midnight.

That extension, if needed, could last until the beginning of the next Congress, according to Senate aides. The concern within the Senate leadership is that the demand for amendments would only grow if the FAA deadline were punted by just a week or two. This would essentially mean throwing in the towel on a major bill that took several months of work and waiting for the lame-duck session instead.

As of this morning, the obstacles are twofold:

Democrats are trying to alter a provision in the base bill that they believe undercuts the Biden administration’s newly announced policy on automatic refunds for delayed or canceled flights. The push has some GOP support, but Republican leaders aren’t quite on board. Democrats are angry that the provision landed in the bill in the first place.

House Republican leadership is lobbying aggressively against the idea of attaching unrelated bills to the FAA measure. You’ll recall that senators from both parties are looking to use the FAA bill as a vehicle to pass long-stalled bipartisan legislation, from the Kids Online Safety Act to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

On refunds: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) teamed up on an amendment that would essentially codify the Biden administration’s new rule requiring airlines to automatically refund passengers for canceled or significantly delayed flights.

As written, the FAA bill states that in order to receive those refunds, passengers must submit a written request. Senators believe this provision contradicts the new policy.

We’re told that Democrats were taking their ire out on Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) over this last week. Cantwell was the lead Democratic negotiator and has been trying to reassure her colleagues that she’s working to change the provision, according to two sources who have spoken with Cantwell.

Cantwell is also privately blaming Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), her GOP counterpart on the Commerce Committee, for opposing a change in the underlying text. Cruz has publicly bashed the policy as well, including in an appearance on CNBC last week. Cruz specifically takes issue with the word “automatic,” claiming it would prevent passengers from being rebooked.

“It just so happens that Sen. Cruz is in cycle, so he’s a convenient boogeyman for the left and those who live on Twitter all day,” a Senate GOP aide lamented.

On unrelated amendments: Senators not only want to vote on amendments to the FAA bill itself, but several also want to use it as a way to pass unrelated legislation.

The online safety and radiation compensation bills are among those demands. Other senators have asked for votes on bipartisan measures including the Credit Card Competition Act and an extension of the Affordable Connectivity Program.

But House GOP leaders are actively trying to prevent non-germane bills from hitching a ride to the FAA reauthorization, according to multiple sources. They don’t want the must-pass FAA measure to become a “Christmas tree” for individual senators’ legislative priorities.

Of course, the Senate could still jam the House with a must-pass FAA bill that includes all sorts of unrelated legislation. But the chances of clinching an agreement that includes final passage by Friday are looking increasingly slim.

— Andrew Desiderio and Jake Sherman

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