White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed the Democrats’ concerns.
“It would be a welcome development if members of Congress, the Republicans who celebrated the sequester as a political victory … would show even a portion of the concern they showed about these real problems with flight delays for the families whose children have been kicked off of Head Start,” he said. “The point of the sequester [was] that it was mindless. It was written … by and agreed to by both parties so that it would never become law, because it would have these effects. It was designed to be terrible and onerous.”
But with public pressure growing — and lawmakers eager to get home for the recess — support became overwhelming, and Carney said Obama would sign the bill.
The last-minute deal, crafted Thursday, was somewhat surprising because Republicans had been railing all week that the Obama administration had created a false crisis.
“Does anyone out there believe a federal government bureaucracy can’t find this level of savings without affecting the American people? Well, I don’t,” said Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind. “Rather than furloughing air traffic controllers to make a political point, the FAA should cut wasteful and unnecessary spending.”
Huerta told lawmakers Wednesday that the agency had cut spending on travel, training and information technology, but that to plug an expected $637 million hole through Sept. 30, it had to look at payroll.
“In order to hit the target we have to hit, we don’t really have any choice,” Huerta said.
Top Republicans insisted otherwise, and some airline officials joined the chorus.
“We are disappointed that the FAA chose this path that maximizes customer disruptions and damage to airlines instead of choosing a less disruptive method to comply with the budget obligations,” United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek said Thursday in a conference call.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Senate appropriations subcommittee on transportation, charged earlier this week that the airport delays were a “manufactured crisis.”
“It’s unfortunate that these irresponsible cuts led to widespread delays to the air transportation system,” she said.
But by Friday, Collins was one of the key players in finding a solution.
After meeting with top transportation officials Thursday morning, she agreed to the steps that led to Friday’s result. After all, Collins said, “This agreement will help avoid onerous delays for the traveling public and keep people working.”