Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is using blunt language to warn of significant disruptions and delays in air travel caused by administration plan to reduce the number of air-traffic controllers if Congress doesn’t avert the federal spending cuts set to kick in March 1.
If the so-called sequester cuts are allowed to kick in, Mr. LaHood says travelers should expect delays of up to 90 minutes at U.S. airports because Transportation Department will close more than 100 air traffic control towers in mid-sized airports as a result of the air-traffic controller lay-offs.
“It’s not possible to continue the same schedules with less people,” Mr. LaHood told reporters at the White House before predicting that lawmakers’ phones would “start ringing off the hook” from angry constituents if the airport delays happen.
“Republicans need to step up here … this isn’t rocket science,” Mr. LaHood said, suggesting his GOP brethren on the hill see the movie “Lincoln.” “What I’m trying to do is wake up members of Congress on the Republican side.”
He then acknowledged that he was chosen to highlight the cuts at the White House Friday because he is the only Republican member of the president’s Cabinet and might be able to influence members of his own party in Congress toward compromise.
Skeptical reporters questioned whether Mr. LaHood and the White House were engaged in an “acting performance” aimed at trying to highlight the most horrific consequences of the sequester as a scare tactic to convince Republicans to give in and accept the White House’s push to increase taxes.
“The idea that we’re just doing this to create some type of horrific scare tactic is nonsense,” he said.