On a slow news day, this qualifies as breaking news. Democrats and Republicans have come together in rare bipartisan fashion to slap down the FAA’s sequester antics by increasing the spending flexibility of the agency to deal with a 4% reduction of a budget that’s gone up almost 10% over the last six years:
In rare bipartisan accord, normally quarrelsome U.S. lawmakers passed a measure designed to end budget-related air traffic controller furloughs blamed for widespread flight delays.
The House of Representatives approved the legislation, capping a major congressional initiative as delays snarled traffic at airports. The House vote comes a day after unanimous approval by the U.S. Senate.
The measure — which is expected to be signed into law by President Obama — gives the Transportation Department budget planners new flexibility for dealing with forced spending cuts.
It would also allow authorities to protect 149 control towers at small- and medium-sized airports that are slated for closure for budgetary reasons.
The Senate passed the same bill last night, and the White House announced earlier today that Barack Obama would sign the bill if Congress passed it. He has little choice in the matter; Senate Democrats sounded the retreat yesterday when it became apparent that voters didn’t blame the sequester but an incompetent Obama administration for the delays. Vetoing the bill would have made Obama’s intention to inflict as much pain as possible too obvious.
Jay Carney still tried to salvage as much political spin as possible:
“But ultimately, this is no more than a temporary Band-Aid that fails to address the overarching threat to our economy posed by the sequester’s mindless across the board cuts.”
Would that be the “mindless across the board cuts” authored by the White House? Yes, indeed.
Update: David Freddoso puts it very well:
Sequestration is actually showing us why government may in fact be the worst institution in our entire society to make decisions about what’s done with money. Amid a slight reduction in what Philadelphia gets from the feds to pay for low-income housing, the city leaves low-income families languishing on some waiting list, lays off a bunch of workers who are supposed to serve them, and then decides to pay for elective surgeries for any male city employee who wants female private parts, or vice versa.
I bet that really makes you want to restore all of that lost funding, doesn’t it?
That’s just one example — and it’s an egregious one, but there’s an example like this in every federal agency and every town and every state in America. That is why, I believe, Senate Democrats backed down so quickly on the FAA. For every person convinced by the air traffic control furloughs about the virtues of government, there are probably ten who have discovered just how badly misplaced its priorities are.
My column at The Fiscal Times yesterday notes the huge budget hit the FAA has taken … not:
Wait, did I say “reduction of funds?” Over the same six-year period, the FAA budget has increased from $14.5 billion in FY2007 to $15.9 billion in FY2012, with the FY2014 budget proposal set for $15.5 billion. The budget increased 9.7 percent between FY2007 and FY2012, and even with a proposed reduction of $400 million in FY2014, the FAA would still have increased 6.9 percent in seven years. If that seems modest, consider that air traffic levels have declined by 27 percent since the 9/11 attacks – and that FAA funding has increased 41 percent in the same period.
In fact, CNN’s Candy Crowley confronted LaHood two months ago on this very point. “Budgets go up and down,” was LaHood’s weak response, but he’s only half right. In Washington, they only go up.
Update: Reason’s Nick Gillespie notices the liberal angst over solving the flight-delay problem with existing funding — and the argument that addressing the flying public’s concerns is somehow inherently elitist. I’m not going to excerpt it — just read the whole thing.