Senate passes bill to end air traffic control furloughs

By Richard Cowan and Doug Palmer/Reuters

While Republicans joined the effort for a quick fix, many were skeptical about whether the White House and FAA were taking advantage of flexibility they already had.

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of maximizing the disruptions to try to shift budget blame on Republicans, an allegation the administration has denied. Republicans have created a Twitter hashtag, #Obamaflightdelays, for people to complain about the delays.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, sent a letter on Thursday to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking for internal documents discussing budget flexibilities. The Department of Transportation said it was reviewing the request.

But a congressional aide involved in the original automatic spending cut legislation that was enacted in August 2011 told Reuters the administration could not under current law shift money from outside accounts to fund the air traffic controller account.

SEQUESTRATION FALLOUT

Without the legislation, the FAA said it would have to furlough 47,000 employees for up to 11 days through September 30 in order to save $637 million that is required by the sequestration.

Of those 47,000 workers, almost 15,000 are full-time air traffic controllers or trainees.

The FAA issued an update that said more than 863 delays in the system on Wednesday were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furloughs.


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