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Toomey sees nefarious FAA scheme

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) appeared on msnbc earlier, and while the interview covered a fair amount of ground, I was especially struck by his assertion that FAA

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) appeared on msnbc earlier, and while the interview covered a fair amount of ground, I was especially struck by his assertion that FAA flight delays, caused by sequestration budget cuts, were orchestrated deliberately by the Obama administration.

Speaking during an appearance on msnbc's "Morning Joe," Toomey said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was purposely delaying flights to inconvenience airline passengers in the hopes that they would side with Democrats in Washington's budget fights."The administration is clearly manufacturing a crisis for political gain," Toomey said.

Toomey isn't the only Republican lawmaker saying this, and every time I hear the argument, I find it more difficult to understand.

Apparently, Toomey and other conservatives think there's some sort of conspiracy: President Obama and his team want to inconvenience the public on purpose, in part to show how important government spending is, and in part so that Americans will be annoyed enough to pressure Congress to end the stupid sequester policy.

Oddly enough, Republicans don't make this argument when it comes to other areas -- health care, education, public safety -- affected by sequestration, though they did use similar talking points to complain about White House tours.

In this specific case, Toomey and others in his party believe the FAA may be facing across-the-board cuts, but the furloughs -- which in turn lead to flight delays -- are unnecessary. "The president's choosing to make this disruptive," the Republican senator said.

As conspiracy theories go, this is pretty weak tea.

As we discussed yesterday, 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.

If Toomey believes the spending cuts are causing a "crisis," he needs to understand it's a legitimate one, not a "manufactured" one.

And if the senator and his party don't like this damaging policy, it's within their power to take Harry Reid's offer and turn it off.