Congress passes fix to sequester-blamed flight delays

Congress has approved a bipartisan measure to avoid furloughs for air traffic controllers, a move that is aimed at eliminating further flight delays blamed on sequester-blamed furloughs.

Under “The Reducing Flight Delays Act,” Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood can transfer funds into the Federal Aviation Administration’s operations budget to prevent so-called “essential employees,” such as air traffic controllers, from being furloughed.

The furlough came about because of budget cuts mandated as part of the $85 billion sequester. But, the federal government saw blowback from travelers, flight crews and airlines whose flights were delayed because of sequester-blamed staffing shortages at a number of major airports nationwide.

“Our airports are some of the most important job creators and commerce boosters for Colorado and our nation,” U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in a statement. “We need to reduce the deficit and cut federal spending, but we should not allow sequestration to cripple travel, tourism, business and commerce – all critical parts of our ongoing economic recovery.”

The Senate approved the measure late Thursday, and the House followed Friday afternoon with a 361-41 vote, but not before members of Congress could blame the Obama Administration for the problem.

“I think we all agree the FAA and the administration has handled the sequester poorly,” U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, said Friday in a statement on the House floor. “The FAA has negotiated in bad faith with the FAA employees, the airlines, the flying public and the Congress. And the Administration has played shameful politics with sequestration at the cost to hardworking American families. As I have often said – this is simply no way to run a government.

“But the Congress is stepping in to correct the problems created by the Administration’s inaction,” Latham added. “We are taking this step because of the gross mismanagement of this important function for the safety of all Americans who fly, and on behalf of the commerce that depends on a reliable air system.”

President Obama is expected to sign the legislation. But, many on both sides of the aisle decried a lack of a more permanent fix to the nation’s budget woes.

“We’re just fooling ourselves if we think that we are doing the American people any favor by not finding a real solution,” Politico quoted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as saying. “A real solution is to go to the table and to have a reconciliation of the budget.”

Said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in a statement: “The challenges the FAA faces this fiscal year are daunting; not only is the agency operating under a continuing resolution but sequestration compounds the problem. It is important that sequestration is implemented in a way that ensures safety and minimizes the impact on the traveling public as well as jobs in the hospitality and airline industries.”

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Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.