Sen. Jerry Moran accused the Obama administration Tuesday of using air travelers “as guinea pigs” by allowing the FAA to begin furloughing air-traffic controllers to meet spending reduction targets in the sequester.
The Kansas Republican told Newsmax that snarling U.S. air travel is just the latest stunt by the White House to demonstrate the hardship of $85 billion in government-wide spending cuts that took effect in March.
“I have no better explanation than the White House is using air travelers as guinea pigs to prove a point,” Moran said. “This is so nonsensical that there has to be something more at play here.”
The FAA furloughs, which started on Sunday, are intended to cut staffing by 10 percent to save $200 million of the $637 million the agency needs to pare from its budget.
Some 47,000 FAA employees are facing furloughs, which are expected to last through September, including nearly 15,000 air-traffic controllers.
Rory Cooper, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, tells Newsmax his boss believes President Barack Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood could save money elsewhere in the FAA budget without unnecessary delays or interruptions to air travel.
“The FAA has the ability to find other savings or reprioritize in order to minimize any negative impact on American travelers,” Cooper said. “After sequestration, they are operating with the same budget they had three years ago, when FAA-caused flight delays were not commonplace. It’s puzzling why President Obama has chosen this painful route.”
The $85 billion in spending reductions became law when the White House and Congress couldn’t reach a deal to forestall a budget sequester. The administration has been threatening furloughs throughout federal agencies — as well as smaller budgeting items such as canceling White House tours — to save money.
Republicans objected to the FAA furlough plan when it was presented last week, and they have argued that the White House should have planned for the cuts earlier.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky also charged Monday that the White House is playing politics with the air-travel system.
“As a result of the administration’s poor planning and, I would argue, political motives, thousands of people were stuck on tarmacs over the past few days,” McConnell said. “The FAA’s mismanagement of this issue is a source of bipartisan frustration. Our goal here shouldn’t be to score political points on the backs of weary travelers. It should be to fix the problem.”
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