Boeing plane

Senate votes to blunt air-traffic controller furloughs

by Stephen Dinan-The Washington Times  |  published on April 26, 2013

With airport delays piling up, the Senate voted late Thursday to give the Obama administration the power to cancel its furloughs of air traffic controllers — a move designed to dent the most painful part of the budget sequesters seen so far.

The bill passed unanimously, without any senators objecting, in a chamber that was almost empty. Most senators had left for a 10-day vacation earlier in the day.

The House must now act. It is still in session on Friday, so it could pass the bill this week and send it on to President Obama.

Mr. Obama had previously rejected efforts to give him more flexibility to halt the sequester cuts, arguing that tax increases to give the government more money to operate is the best solution. But overwhelming support in Congress and ongoing pain by travelers would likely sway him to sign the bill.

“There literally have been thousands of flights delayed since the furloughs went into effect, and I’m so happy we were able to work together across the aisle in a bipartisan way to resolve this problem,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who wrote the bill along with Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado Democrat.

The $85 billion in budget sequesters — across-the-board cuts to most domestic and defense programs — took effect March 1. But the pain had been relatively minor for most Americans until this weekend, when the Federal Aviation Administration began furloughs of air traffic controllers.

With fewer controllers, airplane takeoffs and landings had to be spaced out more, which meant delays on the ground. Travelers complained, and members of Congress grilled the FAA, accusing it of poor management.

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