Congress tells Obama to stop FAA furloughs

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The new bill orders the Transportation Department to cut $253 million from elsewhere in its budget and send the money to the FAA. The bill would also cancel a future move FAA had planned to close dozens of contract air traffic control towers.

Despite administration warnings of massive pain, the sequesters have been in effect nearly two months and the general public had not felt it — until the FAA furloughs.

Republicans on Capitol Hill accused Mr. Obama of making the furloughs as painful as possible as a political stunt. They said FAA could have focused the furloughs on employees who weren’t controllers, but instead applied them to all employees equally. They also argued FAA could have shifted the furloughs because some airports could handle the cuts better than others.

But the FAA chief told Congress this week he didn’t want to play favorites.

Friday marks the second time Congress has stepped in to undo a major part of the sequesters.

Last month it approved restoring money to keep federal meat-packing plant inspectors on the job. Without that, analysts had warned of beef, chicken and pork shortages.

Meanwhile, the administration continues to struggle with how to handle the sequesters. In February, the Homeland Security Department released thousands of immigrants from detention, blaming the sequesters — though officials later acknowledged that they’d been running over capacity anyway, and the sequesters weren’t to blame.

Many Democrats reluctantly supported the FAA bill, but said they still want to cancel the rest of the sequesters.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid earlier this week had proposed canceling all of the sequesters for the next five months, saying he wanted to use lower spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to cover the costs.

He said Thursday that he’ll try to push that bill through when Congress returns from vacation in two weeks.

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