The House passed legislation on Friday afternoon which ended furloughs for federal air traffic controllers. Hoping to strong arm Republicans into agreeing to further tax increases to prevent air traffic delays, Democrats came up short — and lost the message battle in the process.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer split their votes on Friday. “Airports shouldn’t be subjected to politics, neither should our seniors or children,” Pelosi tweeted before she voted for the bill with 158 other Democrats. Hoyer, on the other hand, voted against the bill. He was among 28 Democrats to do so along with Ranking Budget Committee member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
“Well, I think that we should all stay here until we fix the sequester and I understand people’s desire to address one part of the problem. There’s congestion at the airports and members of Congress will get on planes and fly back home to their districts, but we should fix the other issues related to sequester at the same time,” Van Hollen told Breitbart News, adding, “The failure is our Republican colleagues at the same time have refused to even allow a vote on the proposals that we put forward that would replace the sequester in a smart way. So what’s unacceptable is to have House Republican leadership adjourn the Congress rather than have a vote on the substitutes.”
“You can’t be serious,” Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said to Breitbart News in response to Van Hollen’s remarks. “His party is the party that gave us sequestration and he’s upset that we’re having an in-district work period? That’s laughable. Has he ever met a cut he liked? If has I haven’t heard of it,” Gowdy said.
Congressman Raul Labrador (R-TX) appeared equally stunned when Breitbart News told him about Van Hollen’s comments. “Congressman Van Hollen is a hypocrite who continues to talk about programs that have been extended and grown in the last four years by tremendous amounts of money,” Labrador remarked. “And I don’t understand why government can’t find ways to cut a minimal amount of money,” he said.
The bill, passed by the House, is expected to be signed by the president. The bill allows the FAA to transfer $253 million in FY 2013 to air traffic controller salaries and expenses. This will remove the necessity for any additional furloughs of controllers through the end of the fiscal year. It pays for this by reducing Airport Improvement Program grants by the same amount. The bill also allows permitting Secretary LaHood to do more transfers within FAA accounts.
According to plane travelers, airline captains told passengers on their PA systems the long delays or cancellations were due to sequestration. But was it really? Phil Kerpen at American Commitment points out that President Obama’s original FAA budget request for FY 2013 was $15.1 billion. Congress, in fact, appropriated $16.0 billion before sequestration happened. After sequestration, $637 million was cut from the FAA budget leaving $15.4 billion, $225 million more than Obama originally requested for the FAA’s budget.
Losing round one on the sequester message wars, Democrats went home to their states and districts on Friday. Before the vote, Pelosi told Politico on Thursday, “We’re just fooling ourselves if we think that we are doing the American people any favor by not finding a real solution,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was nonetheless open to a fix that would move money from other Transportation Department accounts to shore up the FAA. “A real solution is to go to the table and to have a reconciliation of the budget.”