President Obama said on Tuesday that the recently approved bill to end air traffic controller furloughs that caused flight delays across the country proves that Congress can compromise to pass major pieces of legislation.
Speaking at a press conference at the White House, Obama touted the Federal Aviation Administration bill when he was asked about his ability to influence Republicans in Congress.
Obama is expected to sign the FAA bill on Tuesday. The measure allows the agency to shift $253 million from its airport improvement program to cover the salaries of air traffic controllers who were set to be furloughed this summer.
In response to the beginning of the furloughs last week, the FAA instituted a "traffic management" plan where flights that were otherwise ready to go were held back to ease airplane congestion at major airports.
Delays as long as two hours were reported at airports in places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Airlines and their passengers complained as backups mounted, with the FAA reporting hundreds of flights delayed each day last week.
Republicans have touted the measure that was passed to end the FAA furloughs as a victory over Obama because he had previously opposed partial fixes for the sequester.
Obama said Tuesday, however, that it was Republicans who had flipped on the flight delays.
"The notion was somehow that we had exaggerated the effects of the sequester. Remember? The president's … 'crying wolf; he's Chicken Little,'" Obama said. "And then in rapid succession, suddenly White House tours, 'This is terrible; how can we let that happen?' Meat inspectors, 'We've got to fix that.' And most recently, 'What are we going to do about potential delays at airports?'"
Obama said the bill that was passed by lawmakers to allow the FAA to move money around in its budget to avoid the furloughs it implemented in response to the sequester was "not a solution" to the country's budget problems, however.
"Congress responded to the short-term problem of flight delays by giving us the option of shifting money that's designed to repair and improve airports over the long term to fix the short-term problem," he said. "Well that's not a solution. Essentially what we've done is, we've said, 'In order to avoid delays this summer, we're gonna ensure delays for the next two or three decades.'"
Obama said he agreed to the short-term FAA bill because "the alternative, of course, is either to go ahead and impose a whole bunch of delays on passengers now, which also does not fix the problem.
"The third alternative is to actually fix the problem by coming up with a broader, larger deal," he added.