Last week Congress took action to help air travelers frustrated with long lines at airports across the country. I was pleased to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this bipartisan legislation. However, it's a shame that Congress had to get involved in the matter. The furloughs of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees could have been avoided if the Obama Administration would stop playing politics.
Flight delays experienced across the country were due to the FAA's decision to furlough 47,000 employees, including 15,500 air traffic controllers. The Obama Administration has blamed these delays on the Budget Control Act, passed in August of 2011 as a last-resort measure to avert a fiscal crisis. Because an agreement couldn't be reached to reduce overall federal spending, across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, went into effect. While President Obama will continue to claim his hands were tied and furloughs for all FAA employees were unavoidable, the truth is that the administration failed to adequately plan for these cuts or use existing flexibility to make cuts to lower-priority programs that would have lessened the impact on air travelers.
Thankfully, after weeks of hard work and just six days after the furloughs were implemented, Congress passed legislation to provide the FAA with the authority to utilize unspent funds. Additional flexibility was given in order to transfer other funding within the FAA budget to prevent reduced operations and staffing during fiscal year 2013. More importantly, the legislation provides flexibility to resolve the FAA's problems within the spending caps required under the Budget Control Act of 2011 without raising taxes or increasing deficit spending. While I would have preferred the FAA Administrator and the Secretary of Transportation to have better planned for their fiscal belt-tightening, I am pleased the air passengers across the country will now see some relief.
The FFA furlough debacle is just the latest attempt by President Obama and his administration to make the effects of the sequester as painful as possible. It's unfortunate that the President would rather try to score political points than care about the Nation's airline passengers. Like many of you, I believe it is time for President Obama and other national political leaders to start putting people before politics.