FAA Blames Flight Delays on Cuts, GOP Blames Politics

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This week, the Federal Aviation Administration began furloughing each of its air traffic controllers for one day out of 10 to save roughly $600 million this fiscal year.

The cost to the American public: flight delays across the country, except in Washington-area airports, which have miraculously been spared.

In the first three days this week, travelers experienced 5,800 flight delays. Compare that with the same time period last year in which there were 2,500 delays.

The FAA says the furloughs are the only way to achieve the needed cuts.

"We refuse to sacrifice safety even if it means less efficient operations," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.

But some lawmakers, many who voted for the budget cuts causing the delays, say they were misled.

"The first question I want answered is, why didn't you tell us about it beforehand?" Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., asked Huerta at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Republicans say it's all political gamesmanship, designed to convince voters that the government should raise taxes. House Speaker John Boehner tweeted that the White House could make cuts elsewhere and prevent the flight delays.

Bill Frezza, a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the delays represent a political calculation.

"I don't think there's any doubt right now that there's this attempt being made that we'll all be better off if we pay more taxes," Frezza said. "And directing these sequestration cuts where it causes the most pain is part of a strategy that's going to be playing out in the months ahead."

The Wall Street Journal noted, "Making smart choices about federal spending would spoil the fun of creating flight delays and then blaming Republicans."

What remains to be seen: just how fed up the public will become and what Americans will demand.

"I honestly think if the American public screams loud enough, they probably will, but the public's gonna have to yell loud and hard," one person said.

The FAA furloughs couldn't come at a worse time. As the height of summer travel is about to start, almost 7,000 flights could be delayed daily -- all because there are fewer controllers to direct take-offs and landings.

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