Before members rush for airports, Congress ends sequester flight delays
Once again, the prospect of missing flights home helped Congress resolve a standoff, this time over sequester cuts that had furloughed air traffic controllers and caused flight delays this week.
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When Republicans started a drumbeat of complaints about flight delays early this week, Democrats led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada responded by asking for reductions in a contingency account for war spending that is an often-sought honeypot for congressional budgeteers looking for funny money to offset the cost of keeping air traffic controllers on the job.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Stuck in an airport
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Then, with the smell of jet fumes in the air, Democrats relented and adopted the shift-the-pain-around approach.
In saying that the president would sign the bill, Mr. Carney argued that Congress should be figuring out ways to fix the entirety of the sequester, not just patch one highly visible public part of it.
“The delays are a problem not just for business travelers and members of Congress but for many Americans, and that’s a real consequence of the sequester,” Carney said. “We call on members to show as much concern for other Americans who are being harmed... [the president] believes this is a Band-Aid covering a massive wound to the economy.”
Asked whether the White House might have held out for a fix to programs such as the pre-school program Head Start in exchange for the fix, Carney retorted: “We should hold hostage American travelers to Congress’s refusal to act?”
The corner that Republicans had backed Democrats into is obvious.
“As Americans are traveling to see their kids graduate from college, flying across the country to take care of their elderly parents, and taking business trips that will help support their families,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) of Washington, the GOP's fourth-ranking House leader, “it’s time for the president and the FAA to end this manufactured crisis and stop these unnecessary delays.”
It wasn’t the first time an industry (in this case, aviation) had gotten around the sequester. The meat industry, too, earned a fix. And several departments including the Pentagon, Homeland Security, and Justice all got more finely tuned budgets in order to help them deal with the sequester.
But all of that adds up to a reminder that the entire sequester process is just as Congress described it when it was put into place during the debt ceiling deal in 2011: a dumb, meat-ax approach that was never supposed to be, said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) of Virginia on the House floor after the vote on Friday,
No matter how many holes Congress plugs, said Representative Connolly, “sooner or later we have to recognize the dike itself is being undermined.”
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