FAA delays help Republicans reconsider sequestration

FAA delays help Republicans reconsider sequestration
FAA delays help Republicans reconsider sequestration
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It can be tough to keep track of what congressional Republicans think of the deep, across-the-board sequestration cuts on any given day. They came up with the idea, then condemned it, then embraced it, then blamed President Obama for it, then celebrated it as a “victory.” The rhetorical trajectory of post-policy talking points can be a little confusing.

This week, however, the GOP is back to not liking it.

Political finger-pointing over Federal Aviation Administration furloughs intensified Monday, with congressional Republicans orchestrating a Twitter campaign aimed at blaming the Obama administration for flight delays.

The FAA began furloughing air-traffic-control operators Sunday, insisting budget cuts mandated by the sequester (PL 112-25) leave no alternative…. GOP lawmakers launched a coordinated social media offensive on Twitter, using the hashtag #ObamaFlightDelays. The tweets provided commentary by House leaders such as Speaker John A. Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster.

“Why is President Obama unnecessarily delaying your flight?” Cantor tweeted. “FAA can reprioritize.”

It’s worth emphasizing that the effects are, at least so far, varied greatly by airport – some cities saw major delays, some didn’t – but Republicans seem to believe conditions will deteriorate, and they apparently want to avoid the blame for the spending cuts they demanded and championed until very recently.

Also note the selectivity of Republican outrage when it comes to the sequester. These drastic cuts are taking a terrible toll on the nation – hurting everything from the economy to cancer clinics, the military to education – but so far, GOP lawmakers only seem to get worked up about White House tours and flight delays.

“What do tours and flight delays have in common?” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer asked the Huffington Post. “They affect [Congress’] members directly.”

On a related note, Sam Stein explored the policy details and found the Republican arguments unpersuasive.

The reasoning behind the FAA’s decision to apply a one-day-every-two-weeks furlough to all 47,000 employees – including 15,000 flight controllers – is also not as simple or political as Republicans argue. The FAA has to cut $637 million from its budget before the end of September, with every account sliced by the same percent. The FAA’s operations account, from which 71 percent of all payments goes to salary, can’t avoid the chopping block.

Rory Cooper, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), told The Huffington Post that his boss believed the president and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood could save money elsewhere in the FAA budget without unnecessarily delaying air travel…. But specific programs that could be cut as a replacement for the money saved by furloughs are hard to pinpoint.

What’s more, Glenn Kessler examined the same argument and said the Obama administration, not congressional Republicans, appears to have the facts on its side.

Of course, if Republicans no longer like the effects of this deeply stupid policy, they could agree to just turn the darn thing off, and stop undermining the economy and hurting the country on purpose.