Friday, April 26, 2013

With planes waiting, Congress fixes delays

(Boston Globe/Getty Images)

We learned this week, yet again, that if you make enough noise (and have the ear of members of Congress and a well-funded lobby shop in the nation's capital) you can be spared the pain caused by government belt-tightening.

As part of sequestration, which has forced the federal government to slow the growth of spending by just over 2 percent through the current fiscal year, the Federal Aviation Administration furloughed 1,500 air traffic controllers. The FAA's attempt to comply with the budget mandate has caused hundreds of costly and frustrating delays to flights across the country, prompting a swift vocal backlash against sequestration.

Airline employees, a group constantly taking blame for delays, took pains to let people know that, this time, it wasn't their fault. "I don't want to get political," one pilot announced to a plane full of passengers, including NBC News' Luke Russert, who documented the announcement. "But we're being delayed an hour and 15 minutes due to sequester."

Never fear, jet-setters, members of Congress have heard your cries. On Thursday, the Senate approved a measure by unanimous consent to give the FAA more leg room to spread out the $637 million depleted by sequestration. On Friday, the House approved the same measure, thereby effectively ending the horror of sequestration for those who travel by air. (Meanwhile, those who benefit from federal programs like Head Start, Children?s Health Insurance Program and Meals on Wheels, which also had to make adjustments because of the sequester, are just going to have to suck it up.)

After voting, many of the members strolled down the steps of the Capitol building toward their SUVs and private cars that promptly drove them to Ronald Reagan National Airport to catch their flights home.



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