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Biden signs one-week FAA extension via autopen

By Arlette Saenz and Clare Foran, CNN

Washington (CNN) — President Joe Biden on Friday signed a one-week extension for federal aviation programs ahead of a key deadline after the Senate passed the measure Thursday night, the White House announced.

The president, who is currently traveling in San Francisco, signed the Federal Aviation Administration funding extension using the autopen – a device used for automatic signatures – in order to ensure there was no lapse in funding, a White House official said. The bill was transmitted to the White House Friday afternoon, the official said.

The use of the autopen, which was first used by President Barack Obama to sign legislation, has been a rarity in the Biden administration. The White House has gone to great lengths at times to fly physical bills to Biden while he’s traveling abroad, including a $40 billion Ukraine aid package the president signed while in South Korea in 2022 and a 2022 bill to avert a government shutdown while the president was on vacation in St. Croix.

The Senate also approved a bipartisan FAA reauthorization bill that renews authority for the agency for the next five years on Thursday night. The House will next need to pass that legislation.

That bill would renew authority for the agency for the next five years and aims to improve aviation safety, enhance protections for passengers and airline workers and invest in airport and air travel infrastructure nationwide. The bill would authorize more than $105 billion in funding for the FAA as well as $738 million for the National Transportation Safety Board for fiscal years 2024 through 2028.

Among a wide range of provisions, the legislation seeks to address the nation’s shortage of air traffic controllers with directives aimed at expanding hiring, includes strengthened consumer protections for refunds for flight cancellations and delays, and would implement technology to reduce the risk of runway collisions.

Although there is broad bipartisan support for the legislation, the package touched off contentious debate over some of its provisions.

One flashpoint centered around flights at Reagan National Airport just outside of Washington, DC – with a group of Washington area Senate Democrats who oppose adding more longer-distance flights in and out pressing for an amendment vote to strip it out of the package. Ultimately, however, there were no votes on amendments.

Some lawmakers argue that adding flights will give consumers more choices and bring down prices, while others say it would increase congestion and delays at the airport.

The House now has until next week to pass the Senate-passed, five-year reauthorization bill and send it to Biden’s desk.

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