Sen. Cruz: Democrat Objection Risks FAA Shutdown

December 14, 2023

Cruz Outlines Need for a Longer Term FAA Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Sen. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) today took to the Senate floor requesting unanimous consent to pass a temporary extension of the Federal Aviation Administration’s authorization. The lawmakers’ attempt at passage of the bill, which had sailed through the House of Representatives on Monday, was blocked by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).


Sen. Cruz’s remarks as delivered, are included below:

“Mr. President, over the next two weeks, more than 7.5 million Americans will fly to see loved ones and to celebrate the holidays. A record number. This is no easy feat. A seamless travel experience depends on airlines, on air traffic controllers, on airport managers, on TSA screeners, all working together for the aviation system to run efficiently during times of extreme strain like the holiday season. At the center of this effort is the Federal Aviation Administration, but there’s one problem.

“The FAA’s authorities are set to expire at the end of the year. Without the FAA extension, air travel and air cargo for those counting on quick shipping during Christmas and New Year will be severely impacted. At the moment, we face a potential challenge of not extending the FAA’s authorities because of the objections of a Senate Democrat. This is irresponsible and, frankly, bad for the safety agency’s ability to operate effectively.

“For the past year, Senator Cantwell, the chairman of the commerce committee, and myself have worked to pass a long-term FAA authorization. The authorization we drafted on a bipartisan basis addresses airport infrastructure, workforce challenges, ATC staffing, protections for passengers, the safety framework, manufacturing, I could go on. It is an important bill that makes progress towards solving some of the challenges facing aviation.

“But we need to make sure we get it right. We now find ourselves having to pass a second short-term FAA authorization in less than six months, without even having gotten the bill through committee. The situation was entirely avoidable, but special interests in particular, the pilots’ union like ALPA have decided that if they can’t get their way, then the American people should pay the price.

“There have been several times throughout this process where we thought we had a deal, but inevitably some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle often spurred on by the union, have tanked these agreements. Each month, it seems there’s a new issue we’re told cannot be in the FAA bill because the unelected special interests are opposed to it.

“First, it was a modest reform to update pilot training. Then, it was raising the retirement age for pilots. Imagine telling a perfectly healthy 66-year-old pilot who wants to fly, no, you can’t fly anymore because your union has decided that younger pilots with a lifetime of union dues still to pay are more important than you are.

“What next will unelected, unaccountable special interests tell Senate Democrats that we’re not allowed to have in the FAA bill? Let me be clear. Short-term extensions are not good for the FAA. This extension until March should be the last extension. I am not satisfied with kicking the can down the road.

“I don’t presume to speak on behalf of my partner in this effort, Senator Cantwell, but I’m certain she doesn’t want to continue kicking the can down the road either. I would prefer that we pass a serious multi-year authorization such as the bill Senator Cantwell and I agreed to in June, but unfortunately, in the months since that stalled markup, we have not made substantial progress, and we still have -- numerous outstanding provisions. I’m very concerned, given the time we have, the limited progress we have, and the constantly moving the goalpost in negotiations, we’re getting to the point we’ll be forced to extend the FAA’s authority until 2025.

“I don’t want to do that. I don’t think Chair Cantwell wants to do that, either. We need to get this bill done, and I’m still committed to trying to do so if it’s a bill that is actually bipartisan and not a special interest wish list that ignores very real problems like the pilot shortage. In a moment, I will ask unanimous consent for the Senate to pass the FAA extension, which will last until March 8th.

“The House earlier this week voted 376-15 to pass this legislation. The Senate cannot leave for the holidays without passing an extension. Without an extension, here’s what would happen. Number one, all airport construction projects using FAA grants would immediately stop. Number two, the FAA would lose the ability to make new expenditures from the aviation trust fund, causing many employees at airports, facilities, and equipment and R&D officers to be immediately furloughed. Number three, special authorizations for drone operations would expire. Number four, airlines would have no authority to collect ticket taxes that fund the aviation trust fund.

“In 2011, the last time the FAA’s authorization lapsed, more than 4,000 FAA employees were furloughed, and the FAA lost more than $400 million. The two-week lapse halted billions of dollars worth of construction projects and impacted more than 70,000 construction jobs. Leaving town without giving the FAA the certainty to operate would be a mistake. I remain committed to working with Senator Cantwell to negotiate a truly bipartisan FAA bill that the agency, the industry, and the flying public deserve.”