GOP: Administration wanted to inflict pain with flight delays

The Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Saturday accused the Obama administration of purposefully wanting to inflict pain on the public through flight delays.

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"There are some in the Obama administration who thought inflicting pain on the public would give the president more leverage to avoid making necessary spending cuts, and to impose more tax hikes on the American people," Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said during the Republican weekly address.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began furloughing employees this week, including air traffic controllers, as a part of automatic budget cuts required by the sequester. The furloughs resulted in long flight delays for passengers across the country.

The White House said the law forced the FAA to furlough the employees, but Shuster argued the administration had more flexibility.

“They could have cut spending elsewhere," Shuster said. "They could have taken into account air traffic patterns, and made sure controllers would be in place where they were most needed. Or they could have reached out to Congress and the airlines to have a plan in place ahead of time."

Congress passed legislation this week restructuring the $600 million FAA cuts to avoid the flight delays. President Obama has said he will sign it.

Shuster applauded the public for putting pressure on the White House to accept a legislative fix to the flight delays. The administration had previously argued that any legislative solution should address the sequester as a whole, and not spare particular programs.

"The pressure worked, and again we’ve seen that when the people speak out, government has an obligation to listen," Shuster said.

He argued that Congress and the president should agree to replace the sequester with "smarter, more responsible cuts." The White House has insisted on a "balanced" approach that would include at least some tax increases for high-income earners.

In his weekly address, President Obama said on Saturday that the fix to the air traffic delays is only a "Band-Aid."

"But these cuts are scheduled to keep falling across other parts of the government that provide vital services for the American people. And we can’t just keep putting Band-Aids on every cut. It’s not a responsible way to govern," Obama said. "There is only one way to truly fix the sequester: by replacing it before it causes further damage."