Flight delays that have been attributed by Democrats and airlines to the sequester are a “manufactured crisis,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Wednesday.
Speaking during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Toomey said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was purposely delaying flights to inconvenience airline passengers in the hopes that they would side with Democrats in Washington's budget fights.
“The administration is clearly manufacturing a crisis for political gain,” Toomey said. “If the sequester goes through and stays in place, the FAA will have more money to spend in 2013 than what the president asked for in his budget submission.”
The agency says it has no choice but to furlough its more than 14,000 air traffic controllers and other employees because it is required to cut its budget by $600 million under the sequester.
The agency said that 1,200 flights were delayed on Monday as a result of the sequester, in addition to another 1,400 flights that were late because of weather and other issues, like mechanical problems.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday that Republican arguments that the FAA could make cuts in other areas of its budget to avoid the furloughs “does not hold water."
“The FAA did take action — all the action it could under the law — to produce savings,” Carney said. “Furloughs are the only option available to the FAA at this time.”
Toomey countered that the agency was under pressure to inconvenience airline passengers to show that the Obama administration's predictions of the sequester’s impact weren't exaggerated.
“The president and many in his administration were so shrill about this leading up to the sequester, they feel like they better make it painful or else look pretty foolish having predicted all the dire consequences,” the Pennsylvania senator said.
“They backed themselves into a bad position, where what they should’ve done is said, ‘Let’s work with Congress; let’s find the duplication, the waste, the excess, the low priority items.' They can easily make due with the money that's left over.”
Toomey said it was “really irresponsible to implement these modest savings in the most disruptive way.
“This could be managed. The president’s choosing to make this disruptive,” he said.
The FAA has said that it will have to furlough air traffic controllers one day for each two-week pay period, leading to them losing 11 days of work between now and September.
The agency has estimated that it will have to operate with 10 percent less people monitoring flights on a daily basis.
The FAA said this week that it was instituting a “traffic management” plan for flights to ensure that it can safely manage the number of flights that are taking off and landing at major airports.
As a result, planes that are otherwise ready to depart may be held at gates.
Airlines have launched a campaign to train their passengers’ frustration with the delays on Congress and the Obama administration, pointing them to a website called DontGroundAmerica.com.
Watch Toomey on "Morning Joe" below: