Flight delays get rare cooperative action in Congress

Lawmakers from both parties agree to more funding for the FAA to relieve sequester-prompted furloughs of air traffic controllers.

By Bruce Kennedy Apr 26, 2013 1:26PM

Air traffic controller in tower (© Fotodesign Holzhauser/F1online/Getty Images)It's been a rough week for air travelers in the U.S., as the automatic federal spending cuts required by the sequester kicked in. Furloughs were triggered for about 15,000 Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers as part of the FAA's $600 million, across-the-board budget cuts.

The resulting flight delays at major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York were expected, but they came with a vengeance. According to FAA data quoted by CNN more than 3,000 flights have experienced significant delays since last Sunday, thanks to reduced staffing of air traffic controllers.

But late Thursday night, just as Congress was planning its Friday getaway from Washington for a week-long recess, the Senate unanimously passed a plan to ease those FAA spending cuts. The U.S. House of Representatives passed it on Friday, and President Barack Obama is likely to sign it shortly.

The three-page bill allows for up to $253 million dollars to be moved into the FAA's operations budget. That would end -- if only for the moment -- the air traffic controller furloughs. But it's unclear if that funding could be used to help restaff the nearly 149 air traffic control towers at smaller, regional airports that were also hit by sequestration.

As expected, lawmakers declared a victory as they packed up to go home. "Something rare has happened in Washington," Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told WSB Radio, "the Senate came together on a bipartisan basis."

"We should not allow sequestration to cripple travel, tourism, business and commerce," added Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

The White House said it welcomed Congress' action, but noted it was a short-term solution to the larger issues caused by the sequestration.

"It will be good news for America's traveling public if Congress spares them these unnecessary delays," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement quoted by Reuters. However, Carney added, "this is no more than a temporary Band-Aid that fails to address the overarching threat to our economy posed by the sequester's mindless across-the-board cuts."

The airlines have been clamoring this week for the government to do something to resolve the air traffic controller issue. "Common sense tells all of us that this can't go on," Southwest Airlines (LUV) CEO Gary Kelly told Bloomberg on Thursday. "It does need a quick resolution."

More on moneyNOW

Apr 26, 2013 2:15PM
They didn't fail to plan......they planned to fail.  Sitting back and watching our inept government in action is like watching a moronic dog chasing his tail.
Apr 26, 2013 3:03PM
They are only agreeing to avoid the backlash and they are going on recess again.
Apr 26, 2013 3:13PM
When something effects the wealthier people of this country it gets fixed.  Notice other programs that have also been hit hard by sequester like Cancer patients. They arent getting any more flexibility.
Apr 26, 2013 3:47PM
These self centered clowns only acted because air travel delays impact them. Anything else and they would already be on tax payer paid vacation. Term limits for these pigs in suits.
Apr 26, 2013 3:20PM
They actually agreed on something other than whether or not to vote themselves a raise?
Apr 26, 2013 4:29PM
It doesn't matter much which party did what--they are all part of screwing things up.  Essentially this is getting altered because these political nin-com-poops are directly affected--their vacations would be delayed and heaven knows we can't have that.  I read somewhere that congress has a 9% approval rating.  It is truly frightening that 9% of the American public can't see through these maroons.
Apr 26, 2013 4:51PM
Yep.  Wealthy people inconvenienced, including most Senators and Congressmen.  Now THAT is serious.  Cuts in PUBLIC education, PUBLIC health, PUBLIC safety...now those are mere fluff.
Apr 26, 2013 5:17PM
Yes, by all means, Congress-perps....dont be late getting home for that
cocktail with the mistress...or is that the wife?....or the wife AND the mistress?

Yes, thats it !

535 Colossal Wastes of Public Money !!!
And they have the nerve to call anyone else "entitled".

Apr 26, 2013 5:38PM
Could this agreement have anything to do with them needing flights available for their recess? 
Apr 26, 2013 6:12PM

Once again our elected representatives have demonstrated that our laws are meant for the general public and not themselves.  The only book they worship is their pocket books.  They are similar to the Mafia: they care only about themselves - the rest of us are just along for the ride The president should have put congress on furlough w/o pay.   That is the only thing that would have resonated with their political agendas.  They are worse than cowards: they have theirs so they care not about the general welfare of our citizens.


Apr 26, 2013 5:40PM
Controller shortages should not be holding us hostage.  Due to our outmoded ATC system, all of our airports are rapidly falling behind the rest of the world.  It's taken 20 years for us to design a new system based on GPS, called Nextgen, and now that it's designed, it's being implemented at a snail's pace.

Apr 26, 2013 7:26PM
The GOP wanted cuts like this for all the sequester, but Obama and the Dems blocked it because they want to make them hurt as bad as possible, so no one will ever cut the bloated, wasteful government.

Obama Rejects GOP call to appropriate sequester cuts, LA Times, Feb.26, 2013.

The GOP offered Obama the authority to pick where the domestic cuts hit within departments, but it was rejected.

Apr 26, 2013 2:18PM
Sequester?  What the hell is that?  I thought that was when your wife got made at you and got a case of the cross leg collic and was witholding from you until you bought her some flowers and talked nice about her mama.  Errr, is the sequester over?  Gotta go....
Apr 26, 2013 6:12PM
Is it any surprise they got the planes back on schedule just as "they were packing up to go home?"  I wish they would just have a one way trip home!  Government, at all levels, and particularly at the CONgressional level and presidential level is a total waste of time, money and breath.   I would LOVE to see a total government shutdown! It won't happen, I know, but I love to think of the possibilities!  No money to pay the pretzeldent, no money for CONgressional overpay, no money for any government agency!  Yes, it would hurt us all but they should have to suffer too.  They are no better than we.  They just think they are.
Apr 26, 2013 3:30PM
Sleazy Democrats blocked similar fixes on the rest of the sequester that would have made the cuts go toward the most wasteful parts of the budget, because they want these tiny cuts to hurt as much as possible. so that their Big Government Swill-Eating Pig Party can keep spending wildly and wasting hundreds of billions.

They should be doing this with every department on the sequester cuts.   We waste 15% or more of all the money we spend, much more than the cuts.

Apr 26, 2013 3:20PM

Maybe there should be a tax added to each airline ticket and to each package shipped by air to help offset the cost of running the Air Traffic Controlers.  Between local and international flights there would be a good source of income, provided it goes directly to the FAA ATC, the same with a package charge for UPS, FEDEX, Global, DHL etc.

The cost of running the ATC should be spread over the people who utilize it most.  I understand they protect us all, but a tax on use would either fund the department, or limit flights.....both would increase Air Safety

Apr 26, 2013 2:14PM
The headline should read: 

"Obama Finally Gives Up Blaming The Sequester For Screwing American Citizens." 

Funny how quickly this is fixed when he gets some heat... 
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