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White House ‘open’ to targeted fix for FAA furloughs and flight delays

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White House spokesman Jay Carney Tuesday said President Obama would consider a congressional attempt to fix flight delays caused by sequester cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration but blamed the traveling inconvenience on Republicans for letting the budget cuts take place.

Sequester-related flight delays began Sunday, and Republicans reacted to them by launching a campaign to blame the White House for furloughing air traffic controllers instead of finding cuts that would have less impact on the public in other parts of the FAA budget.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, used the hashtag #ObamaFlightDelays and tweeted "because the FAA chose not to reduce costs elsewhere." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said people were stuck on tarmacs because of the Obama administration's poor planning and political motives.

Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania, also said the White House chose to furlough air traffic controllers, causing the delays, instead of planning earlier and making scalpel-sized cuts to other areas of the agency.

"The administration has made choices that appear designed to have the greatest possible impact on the traveling public," said Mr. Shuster.

But Mr. Carney said the furloughs couldn't be avoided because personnel costs make of 70 percent of the FAA's budget.

"So there is simply no way to avoid furloughs," he said, repeatedly blaming Republicans for allowing the sequester cuts to go through, which he said the Tea Party considered a "victory" and a "home run."

"The fact is Congress had an opportunity, but Republicans made a choice," he said. "And this is a result of a choice they made to embrace the sequester."

A bipartisan group of senators, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, says the administration has the opportunity to prioritize spending better and other senators have asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood if he could dispense money different to prevent the furloughs.

When asked about the possibility of shifting funds at the FAA, Mr. Carney against emphasized the need to fix the entire sequester, not just the cuts taking place at the FAA. If Congress proposes a fix, he said "we would be open to looking at it" before saying any piecemeal fix would not solve the sequester problem.

"Any short-term or targeted fix to this problem is just a Band-Aid because the fact is there are a variety of, a broad variety of negative effects of sequester," he said. "And this is one of them."

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