The House of Representatives passed legislation Friday giving the Federal Aviation Administration unique flexibility under sequestration to use agency funds to avoid air traffic controller furloughs.
The final vote was 361-41 — because it was fast-tracked it required a two-thirds House majority to pass.
The legislation, now adopted by both chambers in a unusually swift and deliberate fashion over the course of 15 hours, is intended to remedy widespread staffing-related flight delays which have dogged travelers all week.
But it’s also a dramatic surrender by congressional Democrats and the White House in the ongoing public fight over sequestration.The flight delays created the largest and loudest public backlash against sequestration since its automatic cuts kicked in nearly two months ago.
By agreeing to provide special treatment to air travelers, Democrats eliminated a major source of public pressure to address sequestration in its entirety, and created a precedent that sequestration’s consequences ought to be addressed by moving funds around — not by raising the revenue, which is fiercely opposed by Republicans.
The legislation leaves in place sequestration’s domestic spending cuts, which disproportionately impact the poor, and its defense cuts which have significantly reduced government purchases.
In a memo to House Republicans Friday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor basked in victory.
“As a CQ / Roll Call reporter tweeted last night, “Make no mistake, this FAA fix is a complete, utter cave by Senate Democrats and, if signed, by the White House,”” he wrote.
This is a sentiment expressed in other press reports over the last 12 hours, including, Politico: “Democrats blink first on aviation” and Chicago Tribune: “White House Scrambles For Damage Control.”
…By the first of this week Senator Reid proposed replacing the whole sequester with phony war savings. And by last night, Senate Democrats were adopting our targeted “cut this, not that” approach. This victory is in large part a result of our standing together under the banner of #Obamaflightdelays.