Quick Fix to FAA Furloughs Allows Congress to Resume Tedious Shade-Throwing

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 26 2013 11:41 AM

Quick Fix to FAA Furloughs Allows Congress to Resume Tedious Shade-Throwing

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OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 23: Union workers hold signs at the construction site of a new 236-foot FAA control tower at Oakland International Airport on August 23, 2011 in Oakland, California. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Oakland mayor Jean Quan held a press conference to discuss the need for a long term solution to fund the FAA after tens of thousands of workers were temporaily laid off earlier this month when Congress failed to pass legislation to fund the FAA leaving construction projects stalled across the country. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On April 21, the FAA did what the Department of Transporation had warned for two months: It started furloughing employees. For four business days, reporters (and actual people) noticed that planes were being held unusually long times on the ground; occasionally, pilots would explain that sequestration was the reason for the delay.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

So Congress ... actually acted! Quickly! The Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 was written, introduced in the Senate, passed easily, and is curently being debated in the House before it easily passes there. It shuffles $253 million from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program into operations—problem solved. As a matter of optics, it joins the White House tours in the calvacade of easy-to-cover stuff that affects people in D.C. and thus gets demogogued.

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That's basically what the House debate is for. The median Republican speech sounds like the one Rep. Tom Cotton gave, blaming "President Obama's needless furlough of air traffic controllers" for the sudden outrage.

The median Democratic speech asks why this, and not any social spending cut by sequestration, is back on the operating table. The gambit—which will fail—is asking Congress to stick around next week and put the bill through regular order, with amendments.

"We should have a week right here," said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, "making sure we don't see the sequester (sic) hurt those dreams of kids on Head Start!"

But Republicans control the House, and they can cut off the discussion where they like it: with them blaming sequestration and everything bad about it on Barack Obama.

"I want to remind the people of this country that it was former Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama who signed the sequestration bill," said Rep. Michele Bachmann. "We knew all of these calamities were in the future. It reminds me of the Shakespeare line: Thou protesteth too much!"

Nearly two years ago, of course, when the bill was signed, Bachmann was running for president, proudly opposing any possible deal on the debt limit. Didn't end up working for her, but House Republicans are having more success now punting and hoping that the public blames the president for what goes wrong.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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