FAA furloughs could be eliminated

By David Espo and Jim Kuhnhenn

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, April 24 2013 10:38 p.m. MDT

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Michael Huerta testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 24, 2013, before the House Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation hearing on flight delays that are being caused by the FAA's decision to furlough air traffic controllers because of mandatory budget cuts. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Under growing pressure, the Obama administration signaled Wednesday it might accept legislation eliminating Federal Aviation Administration furloughs blamed for lengthy delays affecting airline passengers, while leaving the rest of $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in place.

The disclosure came as sentiment grew among Senate Democrats as well as Republicans for legislation to ease the impact of the cuts on the FAA, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood held talks with key senators.

"I think there was a meeting of the minds" on steps to remedy the situation, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said after the meeting. He said he hoped for a resolution before the Senate begins a scheduled weeklong vacation at week's end.

Said LaHood, "There are too many delays and common ordinary citizens are being affected."

According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which is privy to FAA data, there were 5,800 flight delays across the country for the three-day period beginning Sunday, when the furloughs took effect. Some were caused by weather. The union said that compares with 2,500 delays for the same period a year ago.

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said that if Congress "wants to address specifically the problems caused by the sequester with the FAA, we would be open to looking at that."

Officials estimate the FAA furloughs will save slightly more than $200 million through Sept. 30, a small fraction of the $85 billion in overall reductions that stem from across-the-board cuts, officially known as a sequester, that took effect in March.

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