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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee postponed consideration of a bill to overhaul how the Federal Aviation Administration certifies new airplanes in the wake of two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes.

The committee had been scheduled to consider the 70-page revised bill jointly endorsed by Senate Commerce Committee chairman Roger Wicker, a Republican, and the committee’s top Democrat Maria Cantwell.

The measure would mark the most significant effort toward adopting reforms since the 2018 and 2019 Boeing 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.

Wicker called the delay a "setback." With time running out, it is increasingly unlikely that Congress will approve reforms before it adjourns for the year.

The Senate proposal would grant the FAA new power over the long-standing practice of delegating some certification tasks to aircraft manufacturer employees. It also would create new whistleblower protections and bolster misconduct investigations and discipline management at the FAA and require a review of FAA certification expertise.

"It's very important that we have accountability and transparency both at the FAA and at manufacturers," Cantwell said.

A U.S. House report released on Wednesday found the crashes were the "horrific culmination" of failures by the planemaker and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and said reforms are urgently needed to improve how planes are certified.

The failures "were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA," the report found after an 18-month-investigation.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Democrats unveiling temporary funding bill to avert shutdown

WASHINGTON – Democrats controlling the House are on track to unveil a government-wide temporary funding bill on Monday that would keep federal agencies fully up and running into December. The measure would prevent a partial shutdown of the government after the current budget year expires at the end of the month.

The stopgap funding bill comes as negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief bill have collapsed and as the Capitol has been thrust into an unprecedented political drama with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, which has launched a huge election-season Senate confirmation fight.

The temporary funding measure is sure to provoke Republicans and President Donald Trump, who were denied a provision that would give the administration continued authority to dole out Agriculture Department farm bailout funds. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had informally indicated she would add to the measure language that would permit Trump to continue to release aid to farmers that would otherwise be delayed, but she pulled back after protests from other Democrats.

A Democratic aide asked for anonymity to describe the measure in advance of its expected midday release.

Congressional aides close to the talks had depicted the farm provision as a bargaining chip to seek comparable wins for Democrats, but Pelosi requests for provisions related to the Census and funding for states to help them carry out elections this fall were denied by GOP negotiators.

Trump announced $13 billion in coronavirus relief for U.S. farmers and ranchers Thursday night during a rally in the swing state of Wisconsin, angering some Democrats.

The legislation, called a continuing resolution, or CR, in Washington-speak, would keep every federal agency running at current funding levels through Dec. 11, which will keep the government afloat past the election and possibly reshuffle Washington's balance of power.

The release of the legislation paves the way for a House vote this week and Pelosi appears to be calculating that Republicans controlling the Senate would have little choice but to accept it. Legislation requires Democratic votes to pass the Senate, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., retains the right to structure Senate votes that could make Democrats, especially those from farm country, uncomfortable.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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