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Debt Ceiling Update

Over the weekend, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached an agreement in principle on a bill to avert a U.S. government default on its debt. The bill is titled the “Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023”. The debt limit is a statutory restriction on the amount of money the government can borrow in order to pay for the things Congress has already authorized and appropriated in the past.

Specifically, the “Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023” would suspend the debt ceiling until January 1, 2025. The bill also includes two years of spending caps (which would limit overall discretionary spending on defense and non-defense appropriations for Fiscal Years (FY) 2024 and 2025) as well as provisions to repeal some prior funding. The bill would not repeal or rescind funding provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included $5 billion for air traffic control facility and equipment upgrades.

There are several things in the bill that could affect NATCA members and the FAA. However, at this time, it is unclear how negative those effects may be. Department of Defense spending will increase slightly by the amount proposed in the President’s budget, but non-defense discretionary spending, which includes FAA, likely will experience a modest decrease in overall funding. Congress has not yet determined how the new spending caps will affect each department and agency. By and large, those details will be left to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in the coming months as they continue drafting their funding bills for the upcoming fiscal year.

NATCA will continue to advocate for full funding for FAA hiring and training as well as for facilities and equipment improvements in the FY 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act has been formally introduced and is being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. Late yesterday, the House Rules Committee established the process by which the bill will proceed through the House. Procedural votes, including any amendments, likely will begin on the floor of the House on this afternoon, followed by a final vote this evening. Once it passes the House, it will be sent to the Senate, which is expected to remain in session around the clock to reach a final vote on or before June 5, the date the U.S. Department of the Treasury has stated the government will reach its debt limit.

Although it appears that the Fiscal Responsibility Act is garnering enough support to pass both Chambers of Congress, several political and procedural hurdles remain. If the debt limit is not increased, the government will not be able to meet all of its obligations, including paying federal employee salaries and benefits.

We will keep you updated as things progress.

In Solidarity,

Rich Santa, NATCA President

Andrew LeBovidge, NATCA Executive Vice President

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