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House OKs Bill To End Air Traffic Controllers' Furloughs

The furloughs of air traffic controllers that have slowed air travel in the past week and frustrated thousands of fliers should soon come to an end.

By a vote of 361-41, the House of Representatives just passed legislation that would allow the secretary of transportation to shift up to $253 million in funds so that controllers no longer have to be furloughed to meet the requirements of sequestration (the mandated, across-the-board spending cuts that began taking hold March 1).

The Senate, by unanimous consent, passed the legislation Thursday night.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said Friday that President Obama will sign the legislation once it's on his desk. But, "this is just a band-aid solution," Carney added. He called on Republicans to display "even a portion of the concern" they showed about flight delays for the effects that automatic budget cuts are having on other programs.

The Associated Press adds that "in addition to restoring full staffing by controllers, the available funds can be used for other FAA operations as well, including preventing the closure of small airport towers around the country.

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  • The Senate has passed a bill to give the Department of Transportation more flexibility in how it makes the mandatory cuts of the sequester. Hundreds of flights were delayed this week after the FAA furloughed air traffic controllers, setting off a political storm.
  • As air travelers grumble about delayed flights, congressional Republicans have a new talking point: It's all President Obama's fault. They argue that he could make cuts in less critical parts of the FAA budget, but wants to inconvenience the public to force Congress to undo sequestration.
  • Blame shifting was in high gear Tuesday on Capitol Hill and at the White House as the first air traffic delays tied to the furloughs of Federal Aviation Administration controllers began to get attention.