With just 11 working days remaining for the US Congress to pass legislation reauthorizing the FAA, industry observers are expecting the most likely path forward to be another short-term extension that would last through the end of the year. That would give Congress a window to pass the bill following mid-term elections in November, although a failure to do so would mean that a new Congress would have to start the process from scratch in January with a new bill.

To avoid the prospect of another extension, the Senate would need to pass its bill and reconcile differences with the House in a conference committee by Sept. 30—a possibility that appears even more remote when considering the last multi-year FAA bill took three full months to conference.

The Senate could potentially save time by hitching a compromise bill onto legislation to fund the federal government that Congress must pass by Sept. 30. John Thune (R-South Dakota), chairman of the senate commerce, science and transportation committee, has invoked that idea as a possibility, but it remains unclear whether the Senate will ultimately opt to pursue that path.

One last avenue would be for the Senate to pass the bill—either standalone or as a rider attached to other legislation—and forgo the conference committee altogether, instead relying on a process called “ping-ponging,” whereby the two chambers send versions of the legislation back and forth until they arrive at agreement. But with the Senate’s calendar for the next month packed with higher-priority items like the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as well as the need to pass legislation funding the federal government, that option also appears unlikely.

Some lawmakers, including Thune, have expressed concerns that pursuing short-term extensions could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially if political divisions in Congress increase following a possible Democratic takeover of the House in November. It took Congress 23 short-term extensions over a span of more than five years to pass the last long-term FAA bill in 2012, and the agency is currently operating on its fifth short-term extension since the last reauthorization cycle began.

The legislation was most recently stalled over Democratic objections to a provision that would pre-empt states’ meal and rest break laws for truckers. But with previous sticking points like pilot training qualifications and the tax title mostly resolved, chairman Thune has predicted the Senate could potentially pass the bill in as quickly as one day if it can find the floor time for a vote.

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstien@aviationweek.com