White House to back FAA flexible-spending plan to end ATC furloughs

posted at 2:41 pm on April 25, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Has the latest strategy for the Nightmare on Sequester Street backfired? After a week of finger-pointing over flight delays caused by a 4% reduction in the FAA budget from the sequester, Senate Democrats are ready to throw in the towel rather than risk any more anger — and the White House may be ready to join them:

Under growing pressure, the Obama administration signaled Wednesday it might accept legislation eliminating Federal Aviation Administration furloughs blamed for lengthy delays affecting airline passengers, while leaving the rest of $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in place.

The disclosure came as sentiment grew among Senate Democrats as well as Republicans for legislation to ease the impact of the cuts on the FAA, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood held talks with key senators. …

Other senators in recent days have proposed giving the FAA flexibility in the rules governing its spending. Under a different suggestion, funds would be shifted from a federal grant program for airport improvements into the account that pays for air traffic controller salaries.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the other top Democrats have consistently expressed opposition to piecemeal legislation aimed at easing the impact of the spending cuts, a position that congressional officials say reflected the administration’s position.

But support for that view among Senate Democrats has eroded in recent days as airlines reported thousands of flight delays and industry executives pressed for a restoration of full funding for air traffic controllers.

Reid wants to offer a pay-for, but Republicans are already ridiculing it as a gimmick:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to end the cuts by claiming savings from the draw down of war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Republicans reject his proposal calling it an accounting gimmick.

There are no “savings” from money that wasn’t going to be spent anyway.  We pulled out of Iraq years ago, and we’re getting out of Afghanistan next year no matter what, Barack Obama insists.  Those reductions have already been claimed numerous times for Democratic deficit-reduction claims, so much so that it’s becoming the wild card in liars-poker budgeting.

Besides, as the Wall Street Journal explained yesterday, the FAA already has authority to shift money between functions:

Legally speaking, the sequester applies at a more general level known as “accounts.” The air traffic account includes 15,000 controllers out of 31,000 employees. The White House could keep the controllers on duty simply by allocating more furlough days to these other non-essential workers. …

The sequester cuts about $637 million from the FAA, which is less than 4 percent of its $15.9 billion 2012 budget, and it limits the agency to what it spent in 2010.  The White House decided to translate this 4 percent cut that it has the legal discretion to avoid into a 10 percent cut for air traffic controllers. Though controllers will be furloughed for one of every 10 working days, four of every 10 flights won’t arrive on time.

So the new legislation is both unnecessary and ridiculous, which describes the Nightmare on Sequester Street hysteria succinctly and accurately, too.  To get an idea of how the White House manages to find the funds for its own priorities, let’s take a quick look at HHS, via John Lott:

The office implementing most of President Obama’s healthcare law is not furloughing its workers as a result of sequestration, its director said Wednesday.

Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said Wednesday that his office has not cut its workers’ hours and pay as a result of the automatic budget cuts that went into effect in March. …

The fact that ObamaCare officials haven’t been furloughed shows that the cuts are political, Rep. Greg Harper (R-Miss.) said Wednesday. … “Are you telling me, then, that this administration is furloughing air traffic controllers vital to public safety in this country, and yet you’re not furloughing anybody in your agency?” Harper asked during a hearing of the Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee.

Well, the White House likes ObamaCare. Travelers … not so much, apparently.  As I explain in my column for The Fiscal Times today, the inconvenience is deliberate — and is intended to pre-empt any more attempts at spending reductions in the next budget debate:

In other words, the Obama administration could easily have avoided the delays. The White House instead chose to impose as much pain as possible, grandstanding on the impact of sequester cuts that dare to trim less than 3 percent overall from a budget that has grown by more than a third in six years.

Why? Just as with Hertzog’s ploy in 1969, Obama wants to impose a kind of budget-cut fatigue, and they’re running out of time in which to do so.  The FY2014 budget debate will take place shortly in Congress, and Obama wants to spend more than ever–as his long-overdue budget proposal makes clear.  If the sequester succeeds and the world doesn’t come to an end, taxpayers may want even bigger spending reductions in the future.

And, the Obama administration has apparently decided, that just won’t do.  Instead, they prefer to make these ridiculously small reductions from peak spending as painful as possible, in order to punish taxpayers for the sin of having expected government to act responsibly with their taxes.  George Hertzog would be proud.

We have dared to reduce the tribute expected to the ruling, er, governing class in Washington DC.  We must be punished for this transgression.

Update: There’s also this from the editorial board of the President’s hometown newspaper, too, titled “Hostages on the Tarmac”:

Hours before the federal spending sequester began on March 1, when President Barack Obama predicted that “People are going to be hurt,” he did not add, Trust me, I’ll make sure of it. But he might as well have, as this week’s furloughs of air traffic controllers make obvious.

The furloughs reflect panic: Having exaggerated their early predictions that the sequester’s small reduction in spending growth would seriously affect Americans, many Democrats are hell-bent to pre-empt those Americans from drawing two logical conclusions: If one level of cuts is this painless, then maybe we should make … more cuts to expenditures. And while we’re at it, maybe we should ignore the politicians who told us that if Washington lowered the spending growth curve … the Earth will fly into the sun. …

So, what could the administration do to make a reduction of barely 1 percent of actual federal outlays — less than $45 billion of this year’s roughly $3.8 trillion — turn citizens against Republicans who oppose more tax increases? Easy, or so the president’s men and women figured: Cue the air controller furloughs! Let’s stall some flights on the tarmac!

Sure enough, travel delays have followed. We’re less certain, though, that this hostage-taking will cut the way the White House expects: The scheme relies on citizens being — how to put this delicately? — stupid enough to think that the Federal Aviation Administration can’t find a more flier-friendly way to save $600 million.

Ouch!


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Obama, your eternal Azzhole in Chief!!!

Schadenfreude on April 25, 2013 at 2:42 PM

First guns and now this, even as Obama is disgracefully using his speech at the Bush Library to set up the Republicans on “immigration reform.”

Maybe that won’t turn out as well for him as he expects either.

Drained Brain on April 25, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Is there not one welfare government ” worker” in FAA who has come forward to say —
” Hey, I think my job is important for the safety of American people and I volunteer to still show up for work even if I don’t get paid for that one day ” ?

burrata on April 25, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Obowma to the rescue…

… Isn’t he dreamy?

(swoon!)

Seven Percent Solution on April 25, 2013 at 2:47 PM

So they support legislation giving them the power they already have? Lovely.

jnelchef on April 25, 2013 at 2:49 PM

Breaking: Community Organizers don’t make good POTUS’s…

d1carter on April 25, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Why not simply suspend passenger aircraft operations at Andrews AFB until Obongo grows up?

viking01 on April 25, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Resist We Much on April 25, 2013 at 2:46 PM
Sarcasm at its’ best. :-)

diogenes on April 25, 2013 at 2:54 PM

YEAH! Another of OBOZO’s childish gimmicks to inflict pain and suffering on the American people as REVENGE for an insignificant budget reduction has backfired.

TeaPartyNation on April 25, 2013 at 2:59 PM

The most transparently petty and vindictive administration ever!

rbj on April 25, 2013 at 3:03 PM

‘Toons of the Day: Frustration Devices

Resist We Much on April 25, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Ramirez is a national treasure.

Obama is a loser of historical proportions.

Schadenfreude on April 25, 2013 at 3:06 PM

Seems being a petulant child goes only so far.

The Republicans didn’t back down as expected, and the American people figured out a small piece of the truth of what’s really going on. The status quo will remain, of course, but even idiots and true believers eventually figure out when someone is lying to them.

Liam on April 25, 2013 at 3:06 PM

FAA’s budget is increasing $700,000,000 this year.

crash72 on April 25, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Michael P. Huerta is an inept impertinent swine.

It is a shame that such a PC fool is in charge of the FAA.

Schadenfreude on April 25, 2013 at 3:08 PM

At some point, we are going to have to finally give the punk-in-chief a well-deserved spanking and send him to bed without supper.

Liam on April 25, 2013 at 3:10 PM

I like the Repub who answered “Well, la-di-da,” when the FAA guy made some mealy-mouthed excuse.

PattyJ on April 25, 2013 at 3:10 PM

Imagine if an accident would have happened?

It would all be on Obama, the destructive charlatanic moron.

Schadenfreude on April 25, 2013 at 3:14 PM

I’m enjoying this immensely.

Sky is falling sequester cuts!!! Reality – cuts haven’t even happened yet.

I’m gonna show you by furloughing controllers because the sequester is bad!!! I demand my tribute!!! Umm.. the hometown newspaper (which is the biggest in town and soon may be owned by the EVILLLLL Koch brothers) of our emperor … oops, sorry, president … calls the president out for essentially throwing a tantrum and telling his subjects to eat cake.

When do you kow the emperor has no clothes? When you start seeing this. I have no idea whether 2014 will mean anything at all – but the chance of the democrats taking the House is just about as farfetched of an idea as possible.

Oh – and off thread – heard the Obama phone program has funding issues. Imagine that!

Zomcon JEM on April 25, 2013 at 3:15 PM

My prediction out of all this is that someday Obama will try to take credit for cutting spending.

flstc on April 25, 2013 at 3:15 PM

Imagine if an accident would have happened?

It would all be on Obama, the destructive charlatanic moron.

Schadenfreude on April 25, 2013 at 3:14 PM

The sequester is a Republican creation, the media would say.

“Boehner has blood on his hands!”

Liam on April 25, 2013 at 3:16 PM

The scheme relies on citizens being — how to put this delicately? — stupid enough to think that the Federal Aviation Administration can’t find a more flier-friendly way to save $600 million.

White House translation: “The PEONS are revolting!”

GarandFan on April 25, 2013 at 3:22 PM

when President Barack Obama predicted that “People are going to be hurt,” he did not add, Trust me, I’ll make sure of it. But he might as well have, as this week’s furloughs of air traffic controllers make obvious.

Spot on Chicago Trib. Glad their noticing.

WisRich on April 25, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Maybe the Trib should have thought about this before endorsing Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Illinidiva on April 25, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Imagine if an accident would have happened?

It would all be on Obama, the destructive charlatanic moron.

Schadenfreude on April 25, 2013 at 3:14 PM

This is scary, I hope and pray that this
don’t- let- any- crisis -go -to- waste regime
is not currently ready with a plan to ” create” a crisis, like they did by running guns for cartels and jihadies.

burrata on April 25, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to end the cuts by claiming savings from the draw down of war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stopping at Lowes on the way home. Will ask at the register if I can pay with credits from stuff that I would have otherwise purchased in the future.

I’ll letcha’ know how it goes…

Tsar of Earth on April 25, 2013 at 3:33 PM

Stalin laughs from the pit of hell. The Party, headed by the bat faced snake eater created this, demogogued his ideological enemy, and now rides in to save the day.

May he and the treasonous media all join Stalin.

tom daschle concerned on April 25, 2013 at 3:33 PM

Maybe Big Sis could use some of the ammo saved from ending the wars for the DHS instead of creating shortages and limits in stores.

Kissmygrits on April 25, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Where are the trolls?

Hpoefully, they’re sitting on a tarmac somewhere, sadly realizing their dear leader is petulant and vindictive.

MichaelGabriel on April 25, 2013 at 3:42 PM

If the Ophone program is having funding problems, you know that’s gotta mean our cell bills are going up.

Kissmygrits on April 25, 2013 at 3:45 PM

love it, what to blame or who to blame, the sequesters looks good, what about the airlines, look at the schedule for the various airports, you probably would find that arrivals/departures almost always occur at the same times, and how they schedule the flights, how many non stops say from east coast to west coast? you wouldn’t need to slow down air traffic at a lot of airports just a few like Atlanta, or Chicago, the delays would ripple though out the air traffic control system like a bad cold. To be frank the delays have always been there they are just more noticeable because of the sequester.

RonK on April 25, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Where are the trolls?

MichaelGabriel on April 25, 2013 at 3:42 PM

They’re watching and waiting for one of us to say something untoward, so that they can jump in with ‘righteous indignation’ to condemn us all according to their ‘superior’ liberal tenets.

The trolls aren’t missing a thing. Right now, they can’t defend their precious Obama. So they’re holding out for a chance by one of us, to condemn us all.

Liam on April 25, 2013 at 3:55 PM

So, Obama was an only “spoiled” child?

birdwatcher on April 25, 2013 at 4:03 PM

So, Obama was an only “spoiled” child?

birdwatcher on April 25, 2013 at 4:03 PM

He’s just rotten to the core, a defective child.

Spoiled kids are brats, but life eventually bites them in the azz and they get a clue.

Obama has no clue and, therefor, will never change. Well, except maybe for the worse. The real Obama has yet to come out; we have seen only indicators.

To be honest, I hope he doesn’t reach his saturation point. There, he will be capable of anything.

Liam on April 25, 2013 at 4:13 PM

What about the savings from the war with North Korea that we avoided getting into this month?

slickwillie2001 on April 25, 2013 at 4:28 PM

The trolls aren’t missing a thing. Right now, they can’t defend their precious Obama. So they’re holding out for a chance by one of us, to condemn us all.Liam on April 25, 2013 at 3:55 PM

Well? What are we waiting for? Oboobi hates all Americans, including those descended from slaves. His 1/2 that is American is white and his 1/2 that is Black is descended from successful Kenyan slavers. The reason his grandpappy and great grandpappy hate the British is that they put an end to the lucrative business of capturing lesser tribes and selling them to slave buyers. When these tribalists lost their cash cows, they turned to mau-mauing which again led to further pacification. When they gained independence, they turned to a brand of communism steeped in tribalism and thus did Kenya fall from peace and prosperity to the cesspool that it now is. Those are the dreams of his father writ large for America via classism. have at it libtards.

AH_C on April 25, 2013 at 4:35 PM

NIH is cutting existing grants by 10% and has reduced the funding level to 6% of proposals when I presume the NIH has been cut by only 1-2% like the rest of the federal government. I guess they are hoarding the money to protect bureacratic jobs and salaries in DC and to protect intramural research while research across the nation goes by the board.
The ultimate goal of a bureacracy is to protect itself and grow even at the expense of its supposed goals.
I wish someone in congress would ask about this. I’m sure there are multiple examples of bureaucracies putting themselves before their “mission”

breffnian on April 25, 2013 at 5:31 PM