This Week in Washington


FAA Drone Rule Overturned
A federal appeals court today threw out the FAA’s registration rule for drones flown recreationally, stating it directly contradicts current law forbidding such a requirement.

A 2012 law reauthorizing the agency precludes it from putting forward “any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.” A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the regulation couldn’t be clearer that it applies to hobby drones as defined by the law.

“Statutory interpretation does not get much simpler,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the opinion. “The Registration Rule is unlawful as applied to model aircraft.”

A Washington-area drone hobbyist, John A. Taylor, sued the FAA over the registration mandate after it was imposed as an interim final rule in December 2015. Taylor also challenged a directive imposing certain restrictions on drone flights in the region, though the court upheld those because he missed the 60-day window to file his complaint.

“Congress is of course always free to repeal or amend its 2012 prohibition on FAA rules regarding model aircraft,” Kavanaugh continued. “Perhaps Congress should do so. Perhaps not. In any event, we must follow the statute as written.”

FAA’s current agency authorization bill is set to expire Sept. 30, this issue is likely to be revisited in that debate.

White House
While President Trump continues his first overseas trip with a NATO summit and G7 summit, the Administration was slated to release its complete Fiscal Year 2018 budget on Tuesday.

The House has not yet delivered the “American Health Care Act (AHCA)” (H.R. 1628) to the Senate. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has announced that it will release its score of the House-passed bill on May 24. It is possible the new CBO score could find the measure no longer reduces the deficit which would not meet Senate rules governing the expedited reconciliation process which congressional Republicans are relying on to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. An adverse determination from the CBO would force the House to change the bill and vote on it again.

Republican Senators have continued to meet to craft their own bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stressed “everybody is at the table.” There seems to be some agreement to increase the subsidies provided in the House-passed AHCA for lower-income and older individuals. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said “the way the subsidies were in the House bill, it really wasn’t enough to help people who were on the lower end of the economic spectrum…”

Meanwhile Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who introduced their own health care legislation earlier this year, have formed a bipartisan group to work on health care reform.

On May 18, the House Ways and Means Committee’s Health Subcommittee held a hearing “to review the current status of the Medicare program, changes needed to Medicare’s payment systems, and Medicare programs that are set to expire before the end of the year.”

On May 17, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing titled “The Need to Reform FAA and Air Traffic Control to Build a 21st Century Aviation System for America”. Topics discussed at the hearing included: air traffic control privatization; FAA certification; general aviation; small and rural airports; and Unmanned Aerial Systems.